Figures show SNP reached policing target in last parliament
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill today welcomed the news that his party had fulfilled its pledge to recruit 1,000 extra police officers but said organisational to Scotland's policing structures was still on the cards.
In the first three months of the year, the number of officers in Scotland reached 17,263, up 1,029 on 2007 when the SNP came into power and 46 more than that recorded in the final quarter of last year.
The latest figures reflect a "healthy intake" at Tulliallan Police College in Fife and are in line with Scottish Government projections before the Holyrood election, which showed the 1,000-officer target was exceeded.
Although the numbers are higher than when the SNP came into office, Scotland still has 146 fewer officers than the same period last year.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed the figures but insisted that fundamental changes to policing in Scotland were still necessary in order to maintain current officer numbers in the face of looming spending cuts by Westminster.
The minister said: "My priority is local policing in communities, and I welcome these latest figures which show officer numbers remain significantly higher than when we came to office, with visible policing helping drive crime to a 32-year low.
"People in Scotland are seeing the benefit of the 1,000 additional police in their communities and despite the cuts being forced on us by Westminster, we have already put in place the resources to maintain officer numbers this year.
He insisted: "However, protecting local policing in the long term will not be possible unless we reform the service. This will allow us to more effectively allocate the available money and resources to areas of policing that really matter to the people of Scotland.
"No decisions have been taken but it is clear that the status quo is not an option if we want to build on the achievements of the past four years. Changing the way we do things is absolutely necessary to ensure the coming budget cuts do not hamper the ability of our police to work where they are really needed: in our communities, fighting crime."
Last month it emerged that three in every four members of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents believe that retaining 17,234 officers was not feasible.
Labour justice spokesman James Kelly said: "Every extra police officer out on the beat on the streets of Scotland is to be welcomed but it is vital these extra police officers are not here today, gone tomorrow.
"Three out of four of Scotland's leading frontline officers have cast serious doubts over whether current policing levels can be maintained by the SNP. We need answers from the SNP Government that they have resources in place to keep every one of these officers out on the beat.
"The sad fact is too many hard-pressed communities still live in fear of crime and need protection from strong local policing. It is also vital that these extra officers are not coming at the expense of police support staff who perform a wide range of complex and specialised functions that are central to modern-day police forces and are key in ensuring police officers spend the maximum amount of time out on the beat, not stuck behind a desk."
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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