MORE than two years ago, failures in police call handling were made apparent after a fatal car crash on the A9. That incident saw two people die when their vehicle was not found until four days after a caller had alerted Police Scotland to its location.

Lessons have been learned from that case and a subsequent call handling review, Nicola Sturgeon says. That would be the minimum expectation. She says much progress has been made.

But the Scottish Conservatives have identified hundreds of instances a year in which mistakes made in Police Scotland control rooms have been so significant the force has had to formally record them.

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Some of the cases highlighted by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson at First Minister’s Questions yesterday were alarming. On one occasion a suicidal man was told to hang up, on another two call handlers failed to realise a member of the public had been phoning to alert them to a dead body in her property. Yet another saw officers going to the “correct” flat and street but in the wrong town when responding to a man who was being threatened with a knife.

Besides being serious incidents in their own right, these accounts amount to evidence, according to the opposition, that Scottish Government rationalisation of control rooms has led to a deterioration in local knowledge and effectiveness on the part of call handlers.

The Conservatives claim centralisation by Police Scotland now means call handlers may be responding to contacts from members of the public who are hundreds of miles away.

In all, more than 200 emergency calls were not properly responded to in the last year alone, Ms Davidson said. The statistics come just day after the Police Investigations and Review Commission criticised Police Scotland for a shocking failure to protect a woman in St Andrews who was killed by her brother.

Elizabeth Bowe, known to be at risk from domestic violence, called 999 seeking help. However rather than the help within 15 minutes which she should have had, a call handler later phoned her brother’s phone and left a message telling Ms Bowe off for calling inappropriately.

Police Scotland says more than 800 staff have received additional training since the incident in September 2016, in skills like assessing risk, vulnerability training and guidance on how and when to close incidents.

Ms Sturgeon is right to point out that 200 is a very small percentage of the 2.6m calls Police Scotland receives annually. But the cases highlighted by the Scottish Conservatives, and the police watchdog, are serious ones and it is simply not good enough for such mistakes to be made when the stakes are so high.

Two years ago Justice Secretary Michael Matheson pledged rapid intervention if call handling standards dropped. He must look into the cases raised by Ms Davidson and deliver on that promise. The public has a right to expect nothing less.