A new policing model on the Isle of Bute is an "open invitation for criminals", a retired police sergeant has said.

Under the three-month pilot, which was introduced last Thursday apparently without public consultation, officers are now on call rather than on shift from 12am to 8am during the week and from 2am to 8am at weekends.

Emergency calls are directed to staff at a Glasgow call centre who then alert local officers to respond.

The police officer then has to travel to the local station to get kitted out in uniform before they can deal with the emergency.

Police Scotland say the revised model, which has reduced the number of shifts from five to three, will increase the number of officers at "key times".

"I think it's extremely dangerous," said Gary Steele, a retired police sergeant, who spent 17 years in the senior role on the island.

"It's an open invitation for criminality. For there to be no consultation is absolutely shocking.

"In basic terms, when the police all go away at midnight and the pubs don't shut until 1am, that's an obvious area for concern.

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"A lot of people will be concerned about drink driving. There's absolutely no deterrent. 

"More so for break-ins and so on.  It doesn't take the smartest criminal in the world to figure out that if he's got ten minutes rather than two minutes, it makes life a lot easier.


"One of the advantages of the island has been that you can't get off the island until certain times of the day but you'll now be able to get off before the police start at 8am.

"You can get off the island at 5am in the morning.

"It always gave you the upper hand because there was no point breaking in because you couldn't get away."

He said there was "as much crime as you can find" on the island.

"Drugs is as big an issue here as it is anywhere else," he said.

"We've always been fortunate that crimes like break-ins don't really happen and it doesn't happen because the police are here.

"There's been a big slide away from proactive police in recent years," he said."

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Figures released in 2022 show the number of police in Scotland has reached its lowest level for almost 14 years – with almost 700 officers having quit the force in the last year alone.

Police Scotland had 16,610 full time equivalent (FTE) officers in its ranks at the end of June 2022 – the lowest number since the creation of the single national police force.

The Bute model is already in operation on Mull but Mr Steele says the bigger island has a different demographic and different challenges. 

"The most common comment I get is, 'I don't know the police anymore.' said Mr Steele.

"There would always be 24-hour police on duty. They would be in the centre of the town in minutes.

"By the time a police officer gets to the police station and gets kitted up, you are talking ten minutes on a good day."

He claimed the police force was also too reliant on young officers "doing jobs they aren't trained for."

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He said: "Police officers that respond to calls should be trained in driving but they are not.

"The whole thing with this change in shift, you can rest assured that when the sh** hits the fan, it won't be the senior officers who made the decisions who get the blame, it will be sent back down to the bottom line and individual officers who are given the blame for it all going wrong."

Liz McCabe, an independent councillor and former special constable, said a number of police had contacted her to express their concerns about the pilot.

She said: "We were told by [Chief Inspector] Samantha Glasgow that there would be no change to the police office opening hours and it would be open from 7am to 6pm.

"The station was closed Wednesday and Thursday last week, both days.

"This is not a wee, quiet island.

"I've been told this is going to be rolled out to other areas if it is a success. 

"Who is going to say it is a success? The same people who decided to do it?"

Jann Hurwood, who lives on the island, said residents feel as if they are being treated as "guinea pigs".

She said: "We are an island community and we do not have the benefit of being able to call on additional support at short notice, should there be a major incident. 

"Ferries cease at 9pm which means we are completely reliant on our current policing model to ensure any potential incidents are dealt with in a timely manner before they escalate into a major incident. 

"There is a distinct change from proactive deterrent policing to a delayed reactionary model."

"Police Scotland will probably try to claim that overall crime in the Island has decreased and there is evidence this is the case. 

"However when further analysis is done, whilst minor crimes might have decreased, violence domestic abuse has not."

She said the island's demographic was weighted towards an ageing population who would now "feel less safe in their homes."

She said:"Over the last few months we have had some pretty serious incidents on the island.

"An individual walking his dog along the seafront was violently attacked.

"Luckily as the current model meant police were actively on duty 24 hours a day, response times meant these incidents did not result in a fatality."

Chief Inspector Samantha Glasgow said: “We have revised our operating model for the Isle of Bute to ensure our policing response is effective and continues to meet all our communities’ needs, and this includes increasing officer availability at key times, improving community policing and maintaining our policing response to our communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”