Police chiefs warn SNP’s cuts could turn it into “quasi-paramilitary force”

Wednesday, 26 October, 2022

By Bill Heaney

Senior figures in Police Scotland have warned that they could be reduced to operating as a “quasi-paramilitary force” if the SNP press ahead with their planned budget cuts.

The warning came from David Page, the Deputy Chief Officer of Police Scotland, right, as he gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee today.

He was responding to questions from Scottish Conservative Shadow Justice Secretary Jamie Greene. He asked Mr Page what effect losing 4,400 staff – which its claimed the cuts will result in over the next four years – would have on Police Scotland’s core work.

Mr Page said that there is a “real concern” the force wouldn’t be able to discharge their duties as they currently do. He went on to say that he didn’t want to see Police Scotland become “almost like a quasi-paramilitary force” which could only respond to the most serious incidents.

Shadow Justice Secretary Jamie Greene said this “extraordinary admission” from such a senior figure should be an urgent wake-up call for the SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown to reverse the planned cuts in order to keep communities safe.

Lynn Brown from the Scottish Policing Authority urged the SNP Government to re-think their current budget plans, following a submission from the Authority and Police Scotland that savings of £200-£300 million would be needed to fund pay awards.

A further submission to the committee from Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation warned that the SNP’s planned cuts will cause crime to increase.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown and Tory Jamie Greene.

Jamie Greene said: “The warnings from some of the most senior figures in Police Scotland are devastating and terrifying.

“For their Deputy Chief Officer to warn they may only be able to respond to the most serious incidents is a damning indictment of how the SNP have failed to support our police year after year.

“If these planned cuts go ahead on the SNP’s watch, they will be putting our communities at grave risk and certain crimes will be put to the bottom of the queue, meaning even more victims of crime will be let down.

“The response from David Page was a truly extraordinary admission from the heart of Police Scotland. Our police officers are already overstretched and completely overwhelmed.

“Any further funding cuts will only push them further beyond breaking point and lead to an increase in crime, as the Scottish Police Federation have already warned.

“The submissions to the committee from across our justice system are consistently clear and cannot be ignored.

“The warnings from David Page should force SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown to abandon these reckless plans and finally give our police the resources they need to protect the public.”

Jamie Greene said that the effect of these cuts would (A loss of 4,400 officers over 4 years) have on police ability to perform both basic statutory functions as a police force, not withstanding any additional upgrades and investment projects which may have to be shelved, would impact on police core work responding as a first response body to the needs of the public.

David Page told MSPs that there’s a real concern that police won’t be able to discharge their duties as they currently do.

He added: “We provide one of the best policing services if not in the UK in the world. Our officers are part of our communities. You start to lose that.

“Our clear up rates are good. They could be better, they could always be better. But part of that is because of the engagement with our communities.

“You know you don’t want Police Scotland to become a kind of law enforcement almost like quasi-paramilitary force where all you can deal with is the most serious incidents. That’s not what Police Scotland was intended to be.’

The Scottish Police Federation are warning that the SNP’s proposed police budget cuts will cause crime to increase.

Calum Steele told the Criminal Justice Committee if the SNP Government’s proposed funding settlement comes to fruition: ‘Crime will increase, victims of crime will be let down, community confidence in the police will diminish exponentially, more and more people in crisis will be left without any safety net, and the effectiveness of an already overburdened criminal justice system will leave many offenders unlikely to face any form of sanction, or victims receive any form of justice.’ (Scottish Police Federation, 19 October 2022, link).

Meanwhile, Responding to this morning’s Scottish Parliament Criminal Justice Committee, at which it was confirmed that Police Scotland are forecasting that around 4,400 officer and staff jobs could go over four years due to government spending cuts, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP, below,  said:   “The Scottish Government is slicing deep into the heart of this country’s police force.

“Police officers are warning that these cuts threaten a serious loss of skills and experience from the service. They are clear that this is a direct result of SNP neglect of policing.

“At the last election, the SNP pledged to protect the police resource budget. That budget is now the victim of a serious knife crime. This speaks volumes for the spending priorities of this SNP/Green government.

“In the interests of policing and our wider justice system, Ministers need to listen to the concerns of Police Scotland and revisit their plans.”

The responses to the Criminal Justice Committee on their pre-budget scrutiny can be read here: https://yourviews.parliament.scot/justice/budget-scrutiny-23-24/consultation/published_select_respondent?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=sp_justice&utm_term=&utm_content=42a3dc42-ffe5-4006-be02-a33751b11f20&utm_campaign=ongoing


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