NOT all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, they are normal men and women wearing police uniforms. 

The idea that members of the public can also be volunteer as part of the police has been around since the 1600s. Today, they are known as ‘Special Constables’.

The existence of Special Constables is an amazing way to bridge the Police Service and the public. I believe that it instils a sense of civic duty, pride and community.

The responsibility that some take to volunteer part time as part of the police means that they are representing both the community within the police service and the police service within local communities.

Sadly, I don’t think we see enough of them in Greenock and Inverclyde — especially over the last five years. Through a Freedom of Information request, the Scottish Conservatives found evidence that since 2013 there has been an 81 per cent decrease in the number of Special Constables in the Greater Glasgow area.

Although our unit has definitely suffered more than others, this seems to be a country-wide epidemic. Nationwide, there are about 600 Special Constables making sure Scottish streets are safe, compared to almost 1,400 we had in 2013.

Special Constables make an important contribution to the policing of our streets, deterring crime and interacting with communities. I am extremely concerned about this massive drop in numbers of Special Constables given their importance and the effect this is having on Police Scotland capability and crime and safety on Greenock’s streets.

Whilst I accept there may be some changes in police number, this drop is disproportionate and puts Greenock families at risk.

We have gone from having 199 Special Constables in the area in 2013 to only having 36 in 2018. Special Constables have been an amazing asset to the police and these decreasing numbers are a sign that the Scottish Government need to attract more volunteers.

This has clearly been an area that has been neglected. The SNP has presided over years of declining numbers of Special Constables without addressing it in any meaningful way.

The Special Constables programme is an amazing way for people to gain new skills, new training and new experiences whilst making a real difference to people’s lives in tackling crime and making local communities safer.

The SNP must address this decline quickly and ensure that the policing capability in Scotland is not compromised in any way.

Recently, I questioned the Scottish Government about this and I remain hopeful that the SNP government will pay attention to this issue and discuss it in the next sitting of Parliament.

This isn’t a contentious, political debate; this is about keeping our constituents safe.

I would like to encourage anyone with an interest in policing or helping their community to consider signing up to be a Special Constable. You can choose your own working hours; are given all the training and equipment you’d need and will have some amazing experiences!