POLICE Scotland is losing public confidence after "a series of blunders", including a man’s body being found in his house a month after he went missing, the Tories have warned.

The country’s single force is under investigation after the remains of 64-year-old Arnold Mouat were discovered at his Bo’ness home on Saturday after a four-week search operation.

Police dogs and divers had been used in a high-profile effort to locate the father-of-four, who was reported missing on July 7.

Loading article content

After an internal review, Police Scotland referred itself to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) for investigation. Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said it appeared to be another instance of the force “losing its touch locally”, citing a “series of blunders” since its creation in 2013.

In 2015, Lamara Bell, 25, and her boyfriend John Yuill, 28, died after their car left the M9 and officers failed to respond to a report of the crash for three days.

Ms Bell was found alive but died four days later in hospital.

Last week, it emerged a call-handler in Glasgow didn’t know where the A90 was after receiving a call from a pensioner in Aberdeenshire, and in April officers were sent to investigate a crime in Glasgow which had actually occurred in Aberdeen.

Mr Kerr said: “Even without knowing all the details of this case, it certainly appears this is yet another incident which poses extremely tough questions for Police Scotland.

“And the more incidents like these occur, the more people will lose faith in the single force’s ability to do the basics.

“On Monday a senior member of the force appeared in the press to say things were going well at Police Scotland, and there was no crisis. But now we have PIRC launching yet another investigation, and that reflects poorly on the force.

“There is an increasing mood that a centralised unit is losing its touch locally, with communities across Scotland seeing both their local call handling centres and police stations moving elsewhere.

“The SNP drove this change, and these failings ultimately lie at the door of a nationalist government which insisted upon them.”

Other parties were more restrained in their comments.

Labour MSP Mary Fee, a member of Holyrood’s justice committee, said: "This is a tragic set of circumstances and our thoughts are with the friends and family of Arnold Mouat.

“It is important that the actions of the police force are examined. For Police Scotland to have conducted a month-long wide scale search involving divers, mountain rescue and police dogs before finding the missing person’s body at his home is concerning.

“It’s welcome that Police Scotland chiefs have referred themselves to the PIRC.”

Green MSP John Finnie, a former policeman who is now the party’s justice spokesperson, said it was a “distressing case”.

He said: “Police Scotland deal very well with the large number of missing person reports they receive and will be keen to understand what's gone wrong in this case.

"The public can take reassurance from the independent inquiry being undertaken by the Police Commissioner. It's important that the PIRC investigation is made public and any shortcomings identified addressed."

The Scottish LibDems, a frequent critic of Police Scotland, declined to comment.

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: “This is a tragic set of circumstances and our thoughts and sympathies are with the Mouat family as they come to terms with their loss.

“Police Scotland will provide PIRC with all the necessary assistance and support they require during their investigation.

“We are continuing to support Mr Mouat’s family and will continue to offer them any assistance we can throughout this difficult time.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Arnold Mouat at this difficult time.

"Police Scotland have referred this incident to the PIRC. The investigation is at an early stage and a report will be sent to the Chief Constable in due course. It would not be appropriate to comment on a specific investigation at this time.”