Police Scotland cars are being held together with duct tape and cable ties, while interview suites for sex assault victims have water coming in and mouldy carpets, the body representing rank-and-file officers has claimed.
At a SNP conference fringe meeting, Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), showed a series of photographs, which illustrated the “crumbling police estate” caused by years of under-investment.
Speaking in front of Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, Mr Steele warned that “If we do not turn our attention to dealing with these things now, our police service is going to go off a cliff edge. We are at a precipice, there are huge risks to this service.”
The dilapidated conditions that sex attack victims have to endure when being questioned were criticised by women’s support groups.
Mr Steele claimed there had been “decades of failures to invest” in infrastructure, claiming police boards that ran the eight forces which merged to form Police Scotland had “made a pig’s ear of looking after the things they were charged with looking after”.
Mr Steele said: “Decades of failures cannot be afforded to be left unchecked at this point of time, because if we do we will have a service that rather than delivering excellence can only ever aspire to mediocrity, and I don’t think that’s going to be good enough.”
He claimed officers “are fighting 21st-century crime with technology that was developed in the 1990s”, with the force using “versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports”.
Day to day spending at Police Scotland on expenses such as staffing is expected to be £21 million over budget by the end of 2016-17.
Mr Steele continued: “Police officers are doing a hell of a job under very, very difficult circumstances, the scale of the financial challenge facing the police service is enormous.”
He showed pictures that he said came from inside police buildings, and of one of the cars being used, and said: “We have a crisis, a genuine crisis, coming round the corner as far as our facilities are concerned.”
An interview suite used to question victims of sex crimes who have undergone a “harrowing ordeal” has mould on the carpets as well as damp on the ceilings, water coming in and “absolutely stinks of damp”, he said.
“That’s the kind of facilities we, through no fault of our own, are bringing victims of crime. Can you imagine for a moment what that must be like going in there, looking for a professional service?”
Mr Steele continued: “We have police vehicles held together with duct tape and cable ties. Duct tape and cable ties, that is what is keeping our fleet together on the road right now because we have no money.
“This is the reality of no money to invest in the estate of the police service of Scotland.”
Mr Matheson, who was also at the fringe event, said the pictures “illustrate the chronic under-investment in the police estate over many decades”.
The Justice Secretary also spoke of the “challenges which will be faced going forward for Police Scotland to try to invest in these areas where they can in order to try to improve the conditions”.
But he stressed: “These are not issues that have just arisen through the creation of Police Scotland, they have been there for many, many years. It is going to take time in order to deal with some of these issues.
“A key part of what has to happen is for the service to prioritise areas where it wants to see that capital investment going into in order to make sure it is dealing with the areas that require to be addressed as early as possible.
“There is an estate plan which the police themselves are taking forward. These haven’t happened through the creation of Police Scotland, that is through previous lack of investment into the police estate by the former legacy forces that will have to be addressed in the years going forward by Police Scotland.”
A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis Scotland said: “Such facilities may have been considered adequate three decades ago, but just as we have moved on in our understanding of the nature and impact of sexual violence and the needs of survivors , we need likewise to develop facilities for interviewing people who have been raped that meets those needs and minimises survivors’ distress. It remains the case that around half of forensic examinations following rape are also carried out in police stations, and this is completely unacceptable.”