The new chief constable of Police Scotland has called for a “grown-up” conversation about how his cash-strapped force tackles crime.
Phil Gormley, who took up his £212,000 a year post on Tuesday, said there had to be a discussion with the public about what his force’s priorities should be.
The new chief constable also said it was time to reflect on whether Scotland needed more armed police officers and said he was under no illusions that his new job would be “relentless”.
Sir Stephen House retired as chief constable in December after a year which saw his force repeatedly mired in controversy. Police Scotland must make savings of £1.1 billion by 2026 and faces a budget shortfall for the current financial year of more than £25 million.
Asked about how he will tackle financial pressures, Mr Gormley said:“The mission of Police Scotland has to be about providing the best service possible with the money that’s available and that will lead to some conversations about what the priorities are.
“I think we need to do that in an open, consultative way because the public will need to make some decisions – as will politicians – about what they value.” He added: “There will inevitably have to be choices we make in terms of the service we deliver because demand is escalating, crime is changing and there’s a finite amount of resource available.”
Mr Gormley, whose previous posts include time spent in SO19 – the Metropolitan Police’s firearms unit – said the Paris terrorist attacks meant it was now time to “reflect” on armed policing.
He said: “I think people probably recognise that the world has changed and that the sort of threats they are having to contemplate require an armed police response.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere near needing a routinely armed service.
“But I do think the public are realistic. Some of things that we’ve seen start to emerge do require the ability to access lethal force.”
Mr Gormley, who described his predecessor as an “incredible professional”, acknowledged there had been “significant issues of major public concern” in the past year, but said he didn’t “buy into” the notion that the creation of Police Scotland had been “ill-advised”.
He said: “There are some very significant reputational issues that the service had to confront, but I think people judge the service by their own experience of it.”
Asked if he was prepared for the challenge of leading Scotland’s national force, he said: “I recognise that it’s going to be relentless.”