POLICING: SNP cuts making streets more dangerous

Police numbers plunge to second lowest level ever

The Scottish Government chose to freeze Police Scotland’s budget until 2027 meaning that the force is forced to make swingeing cuts due to a £10 million budget black hole

By Lucy Ashton

SNP cuts will make Scotland’s streets more dangerous, claimed critics, after it was revealed that police officer numbers had plunged to the second lowest level on record.

The force have called on the Scottish Government to supply extra funding to cover a £10 million black hole in its budget.

However, it is expected that the 2023/24 budget would see the overall workforce be cut by 3.7 per cent, leaving a shortage of police officers on the beat. Latest figures have shown that there are 16,600 police officers in the country as of 30 June 2023.

This is the second lowest on record after the 16,570 recorded in quarter three of 2022, and a fall on the previous quarter where 16,615 officers were counted. It means that the SNP have once again went back on a manifesto pledge, this time to recruit 1,000 extra police officers.

They did achieve this in 2011 when the number reached 17,263 but this has now fallen massively by almost 800 in 12 years. Fears have been raised that the government’s plans to freeze Police Scotland’s budget in cash terms until 2027 could reduce it to a “quasi-military force” only used for “the most serious incidents”.

The Scottish Tories blasted the fall in police numbers as a “disgrace.” Shadow justice minister Sharon Dowey said: “The SNP’s lack of funding for frontline policing is making Scotland’s streets less safe, so it’s little wonder that crime is on the rise.

“Officers are stretched to breaking point as they have been forced to do more work with less resources for years now. The message this cut sends to police officers and the public could not be clearer – tackling crime is simply not a priority for this Nationalist coalition.”

Sharon Dowey
                           Sharon Dowey, Shadow Justice Minister 

The Daily Record reported that proposed cuts to the force would leave one traffic car patrolling Scotland every day between 3am and 7am.

This would be based in Glasgow, meaning the two officers would need to travel all across the country if there were incidents.

There are plans to axe 42 traffic constables leaving the entire road network shoddily manned, especially overnight. Concerns were raised that it would mean dead victims of car crashes would be left in the middle of the road because there is no staff to help out.

Ms Dowey added: “It’s shocking that SNP budget cuts have left Police Scotland so starved of resources that a proposal this extreme is even on the table. One police car cannot possibly be expected to monitor the entire country’s roads. This would be laughable were it not so serious.

“This plan must be abandoned or it will risk public safety on our roads. The SNP need to get a grip and deliver the funding, support and resources Police Scotland need to prevent this unacceptable scenario ever coming to pass.”

Scottish Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “SNP Ministers used to parade police officer numbers as a badge of success. Those days are now long gone, as numbers continue to fall.

“We know many officers feel unsupported, overwhelmed and stretched dangerously thin. The risk is that the service loses even more experienced and skilled officers, with knock on consequences for the service and our communities.

“The Scottish Government must commit to urgent action to turn this situation around. That means resourcing the service properly and placing the welfare and voices of officers at the centre of decisions about the future.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17, investing more than £11.6 billion since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013.

There are over 350 more officers than in 2007 and around 1280 new recruits have joined Police Scotland in the last 18 months. Scotland also continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales.”

Community policing at the Highland Games in Luss on Loch Lomondside. Top picture: Police could be reduced to a quasi military force and used for major incidents only.

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