Police call-handling performance has continued to improve over the past year, a new report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) has found.
Salmond Launches Westminster Bid
Scotland's former First Minister Alex Salmond has launched his bid to win a seat at Westminster in next year's general election.
Mr Salmond announced that he is a candidate for the SNP nomination for the Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire.
Speaking in Ellon in the constituency, he said that there is the "prospect of real power for Scotland'' if the SNP wins a significant number of seats at Westminster.
He said that if "real power'' cannot be exerted, Scotland faces the "bleak prospect'' of further austerity.
"What has struck me more than anything else, is that in the weeks since the referendum the people of Scotland have refused to give up on the hope,'' Mr Salmond said.
"For those who voted Yes the possibility remains of real change. For many who voted No they absolutely insist that the vow that was given to Scotland should be redeemed.
"Therefore, with so much commitment among the people, and with so much at stake for Scotland, I think it's impossible to stand on the sidelines.
"So on this sunny day in Ellon, I can now tell you that I am a candidate for the SNP nomination for the Gordon constituency.''
Mr Salmond said that following the No vote in the referendum he has been struck "by the enthusiasm that people had to see Scotland move forward'', and the "absolute determination that Scotland could still win from the referendum''.
He said: "I think it is now clear, 11 weeks later, what we must do to ensure that progress.
"Firstly, the Smith Commission has now reported, and as we suspected, has not lived up to what was promised.
"This is not fiscal autonomy, it is not devo-max, it is not home rule, it is certainly not near federalism.
"What it is is something which leaves 70% of taxation under control of Westminster, and more than 80% of social policy.
"That is not the fault of Robert Smith ... it is just a fact of life that the Westminster parties will concede as little as possible.
"Therefore it is up to Scotland to make certain and to ensure that they get away with as little as possible.''
Referring to Gordon Brown's decision to stand down as an MP, Mr Salmond continued: "It is also clear that the man who said he would stand as guarantor of that near federalism has now ridden off into the political sunset, leaving us with a showdown with the three Westminster amigos.''
He said Mr Brown could not have had in mind the Smith Commission proposals when he backed "the vow'' of further powers during the referendum, because the former prime minister was against the full devolution of income tax.
"It is now self-evident that Gordon Brown cannot be a guarantor of a future settlement for Scotland since he has announced his retiral from politics,'' Mr Salmond said.
Meanwhile, he said the SNP and its allies had moved into a "commanding position'' in Scottish politics, with increased membership and a boost in the polls.
"It is also likely there will be no overall majority in the Westminster parliament, and therefore in that Westminster difficulty there lies an opportunity for Scotland,'' he said.
The SNP, as laid out by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, would not deal with the Conservative party in "any shape or form'', he said.
"There are other possibilities, and in these possibilities a strong group of SNP MPs will have the capacity to rumble up Westminster.''
Mr Salmond is currently the MSP for the Aberdeenshire East constituency, which covers some of the same areas as the Gordon seat. If elected in May, he will also continue to serve at Holyrood.
He said that if voters give him a "dual mandate'' for both parliaments, he plans to donate one of his salaries to charity.
The Gordon seat is currently represented by Liberal Democrat Sir Malcolm Bruce, who is retiring in May.
Mr Salmond, who was MP for Banff and Buchan between 1987 and 2010, said the north-east of Scotland has been his political home since entering politics.
"There was never the slightest possibility of me seeking to represent anywhere other than this beautiful part of Scotland,'' he said.
"I am first and foremost, and always will be, a constituency Member of Parliament.
"I believe however that the north-east of Scotland has led the way in Scottish politics before, and I believe we can do it again next May.''
He said he would not seek to replace SNP MP Angus Robertson as SNP group leader at Westminster, but he would seek "to have a role in negotiating the progress for Scotland which would arise from a powerful group of SNP MPs and our allies''.
The Gordon seat, which will now become one of the most-watched in next year's general election, was won by the Lib Dems with a majority of 6,748 over the SNP in 2010.
Incumbent MP Mr Bruce said: ''People in Gordon rejected the First Minister's independence plans overwhelmingly at the referendum.
''I am sure that they would be delighted to have the chance to reject him again in May. Bring it on.''
Lib Dem candidate Christine Jardine, who hopes to replace the retiring Mr Bruce as the local MP, said the area had been ''short-changed'' during Mr Salmond's time as First Minister.
''The people of Gordon deserve better, just as they deserve an MP who will stand up for what's important to them, not chase their personal political agenda at the cost of what's best for the people of the North East.
''I intend to be a strong voice for all the people of Gordon.''
Westminster SNP leader Mr Robertson said: "I am delighted by Alex Salmond's announcement which is great for Gordon, Scotland and the SNP.
"Having him as part of a greatly expanded group of SNP MPs at Westminster will be a huge boost and maximise our ability to stand up for Scotland.''
Masked armed robbers have made off with a five-figure sum of cash after swooping on a security van in a night-time raid.
Drop-off charges are to be introduced at one of Scotland's busiest airports as part of plans for a new multi-million pound facility.
Officials are ''optimistic'' that the £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing will never have to close as a result of wind-shielding being fitted during the project.
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