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'Keep 999 control rooms or North Sea workers at terror risk'

Closing police and fire control rooms in northern Scotland could put the royal family and North Sea workers at risk, MSPs have heard.

Northern Scotland facilities such as St Fergus gas plant and Peterhead power station "are vulnerable to terrorist attack" and could be left more exposed if Aberdeen and Inverness control rooms are closed, according to former police control room worker Jody Curtis and concerned Inverness resident Laura Ross.

They called for a review of a decision to close police and fire control rooms north of Dundee at Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee yesterday.

Concerns were also raised about the ability of Dundee control room workers to understand the range of languages and dialects in the North.

Ms Curtis said: "Aberdeen control centre undertake the security and safekeeping of the royals on their visits to the North.

"Aberdeen fire and police control rooms and service centres are well versed in the management of emergency procedures in specific locations such as St Fergus and Peterhead power station, which may be vulnerable to a terrorist attack or a large- scale disaster."

She added: "An additional police responsibility in Aberdeen is the North Sea, where over 70,000 personnel work. The potential for disasters such as Piper Alpha or terrorist-related incidents is significant.

"Local knowledge of the companies operating in the North Sea and close liaison with them has always been important.

"It is unlikely that a central system would have the degree of sophistication necessary to address these issues as well as local centres.I would like to remind the committee of the unfortunate number of helicopter incidents ditching in the North Sea in recent years."

Ireland's decision to centralise its ambulance control rooms led to a case of "mistaken location where an ambulance took over 30 minutes to reach its true destination and an infant lost its life", she said.

Ms Ross said: "The Highlands' and Islands' place names are replicated frequently and in many areas are known by two names in Scottish and Gaelic. We have Gaelic, Orcadian, Norwegian up in Shetland and Doric. Combined with all of the regional accents and the eastern Europeans, our main concern is why is this control room being proposed to go to Dundee which has one of the strongest regional dialects?"

"How do they propose that someone with such a strong regional dialect and accent will be sufficiently understood?"

MSPs continued the petition in order to take advice from Holyrood's Justice Committee and Justice Sub-Committee on Policing on their deliberations on control room closures.

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Local government

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