By Lucy Ashton
The SNP Executive has been accused of presiding over “savage” police cuts which could make communities less safe due to a lack of cops being on the frontline. New analysis from the 1919 magazine has found that hundreds of officers have been cut from divisions across Scotland, sparking warnings that the “bonds” with locals has been lost.
And this drop in bobbies on the beat is mostly affecting rural communities like Dumfries and Galloway and Grampian, leading to concerns that there is a postcode lottery in policing strength. The V Division in Dumfries fell from 406 in 2020 down to 349, which is a huge drop of 14 per cent.
Retirements and a recruitment freeze is set to pile more pressure on cops, with it being alleged that the funding cut announced by the Scottish Government is putting public safety and officers themselves at risk. This was evidenced by the Bonfire Night chaos where police were left short-staffed when dealing with groups of yobs throwing fireworks and petrol bombs at them.
As of June 30 this year, Scotland had 16,600 full-time equivalent officers, which includes 12,193 assigned to one of 13 local divisions. This was a fall of 575 (4.5 per cent) from 12,768 in March 2020, when numbers peaked in the era of the single force.
In the north-east, A division was down eight per cent, Tayside (D division) plummeted by 7.2 per cent, and numbers in Forth Valley (C division) slumped by 6.6 per cent. Some areas have, however, been spared significant reductions, including Glasgow’s G division (2.5 per cent down) and K division, which covers Renfrewshire and Inverclyde (down two per cent).
No area recorded an increase, although figures remained static in the Highlands and Islands (N division). Scottish Police Federation general secretary David Kennedy criticised this drop in numbers, claiming that it “damaged the bond with communities.”
He added: “Community officers go to events, get to know children, the parents, and they get to know the criminals. This all makes a positive difference, but when you take it away the barriers come up and rather than policing by consent, it becomes a force rather than a service.
“For the officers themselves, the eradication of the frontline means it’s a struggle for them to get their annual leave and go to the events in the community that are so important. We’re not a pro-active service anymore, it’s just reactive, and that makes a difference in the longer term.”
“I have even received correspondence from officers themselves voicing deep concerns over manpower numbers. It is truly shocking that in just a few years the number of serving officers in Dumfries and Galloway is down by almost a sixth.”
Police Scotland has said the current recruitment freeze, coupled with a pause on training, will “free up training staff to support frontline colleagues by performing operational duties over Christmas and New Year.”
New Chief Constable Jo Farrell insisted: “Despite the funding pressures we’re facing, communities should be reassured that we are doing everything possible to direct resources to areas which encounter the greatest demand, and which carry the greatest risk, and that we continue to effectively reduce harm and protect the vulnerable.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said the administration has invested more than £11.6 billion since the creation of the single force in 2013.
They said: “Police Scotland is a vital service which is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016/17, with £1.45 billion being invested this year.
“There are over 350 more officers than in 2007 and around 1,480 new recruits have joined Police Scotland since the beginning of 2022.
Scotland continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales and, following the agreed pay deal of 12 per cent over two years, our officers continue to be the best paid at all levels.”