SCOTLAND’S most senior policeman has urged the government to use funds seized from criminals to fight crime, saying it is “nuts” to refuse.
Chief Constable Stephen House revealed he has made several pleas that the proceeds of crime be returned to his budget.
At present, the majority goes to good causes through the Scottish Government’s Cashback for Communities scheme.
That contrasts with England and Wales where, after providing compensation for victims, the money is used to reimburse the cost of the investigation, and then goes towards other policing initiatives.
Mr House, the chief constable of Police Scotland, told the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents conference, in Pitlochry, that he is struggling to balance his budget.
He needs to save £58 million this year – and similar amounts in the next two – and has so far identified between £45m and £48m.
He warned that, if cuts have to be made to partnerships the police is involved in, it could cause “irreparable” damage to Scotland.
Mr House said: “I’ve been continually pleading with government to revisit money seized through proceeds of crime.
“We all know we are not a special case, but we are seizing millions of pounds every year from organised criminals for the state.
“We need some of that money to put into our budget – one, to close the gap, but two, to do more damage to organised crime. To deny putting assets of crime back into the criminal justice system is simply not right.”
Mr House said he recognised that some people might raise concerns about police priorities being influenced by the prospect of making money, but added that the Scottish Police Authority would be there to scrutinise.
He added it would be “nuts not to give us some” of the money seized from criminals.
More than £80m has been seized from criminals over the past decade, including £12m in the last year alone, the Crown Office revealed last month.
Political opinion was split on whether the money should go back to the police.
Lewis MacDonald MSP, Scottish Labour justice spokesman, said: “The idea of targeted money going into more recovery of funds is a good one.
“Proceeds of crime cannot substitute for multi-million funding cuts in core policing support. However, using some of that money to hit organised crime harder is a good idea.”
But Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “Our view is that policing in Scotland should be adequately funded by the Scottish Government.
“The cashback scheme is an excellent one, making people across Scotland feel that there is some form of compensation coming their way. That should not be threatened by diverting some of that money away.”
The Scottish Government said it would consider Mr House’s plea.
A spokeswoman said: “We will continue to assess requests on a case-by-case basis, taking decisions based on their relative merits. We are currently considering a proposal from Police Scotland.”