By Bill Heaney
The average Police Scotland response time to answer 101 calls from the public has increased by more than a minute, official figures have revealed.
The typical time taken to answer calls to the non-emergency number rose from three minutes 17 seconds in 2021/22 to four minutes 27 seconds in 2022/23.
The 36 per cent rise comes as police officer numbers have fallen to their lowest level since 2008.
And it follows warnings about SNP government budget cuts from outgoing chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone.
Russell Findlay MSP and Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone.
He said in an interview last year that call response times would increase as the force’s resources were stretched further.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Russell Findlay described the figures as an “unacceptable but entirely predictable result” of the SNP’s failure to give Police Scotland the resources required to function properly.
He warned that it could have a dangerous knock-on effect by causing frustrated callers to hang up and dial 999 instead, which risks clogging up the emergency line.
Russell Findlay MSP, said: “These lengthy waiting times are an unacceptable but entirely predictable result of the SNP’s under-funding of Police Scotland.
“Overstretched officers and staff are doing their very best, but they are being deprived of the resources they desperately need to serve the public.
“Callers should not have to wait almost five minutes for a 101 call to be answered. It’s the kind of shoddy experience you might expect from a bank or a utility company – not the police service.
“My concern is that as wait times increase, more frustrated callers might hang up and dial 999 which could add even more pressure to the system.
“Public safety will continue to be put at risk unless SNP ministers make justice and policing a priority rather than an afterthought.”
101 call response times have increased by more than a minute in the last year. Police Scotland’s quarterly performance report confirms on both Pages 10 and 74 that for the financial year of 2022-23, the average call response time was 4 minutes and 27 seconds, a rise from the 3 minutes and 17 seconds recorded in 2021-22. (Police Scotland Performance Report Q4 2022-23, attached, Pages 10 and 74)
The Chief Constable confirmed Police Scotland are struggling to respond as quickly to calls due to falling officer numbers. Iain Livingstone told the Scottish Police Authority: ‘We are seeing the impact in our service of having fewer officers across a range of operational areas including our responsiveness to calls from the public.’ (Scottish Daily Mail, 26 August 2022, Page 29, https://www.pressreader.com/uk/scottish-daily-mail/20220826/page/2).