Police Scotland has denied it is being “shackled” by the SNP commitment on officer numbers amid claims the force does not have a “fully formed” financial strategy.
In a submission on the Scottish Government’s draft budget, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland said the force and the Scottish Police Authority did not have a “medium-term” plan in place.
But giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said the single force had been a “success story”, despite a projected £25 million overspend this year. And he denied his force is being financially “shackled” by the SNP commitment to maintaining 1,000 extra officers compared to when the party came to power in 2007.
Asked by MSPs whether his force had been “constrained” by the commitment on officer numbers, Mr Richardson said the figure had actually been “helpful” as it focused minds on where cuts needed to be made. He said: “It has enabled us to keep a critical mass of police officers to ensure that service delivery is sustained.
“I would not subscribe to the view that, as you describe, it is a set of shackles for us,” he said.
He added: “Much of the commentary [on Police Scotland] has been around failure, but this is a mark of success – that we’ve been managed to sustain numbers. To be in the position where you have a £25m overspend against a £1 billion budget would suggest quite a significant success story.”
MSPs heard that Police Scotland faces a VAT bill of £33m this year – enough to fund 900 officers. Police Scotland is the only force in the UK which pays VAT despite pleas to waive it..