A senior police officer has rejected SNP claims that crime is at its lowest level in more than four decades.
Chief Superintendent Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, sent a tweet undermining SNP government figures apparently showing Scotland’s streets are the safest they have been since the early 1970s.
It followed an angry exchange between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Kezia Dugdale at yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions over a watchdog report on police call handling, which was released earlier this week.
In a response to comments by Ms Dugdale over the controversies faced by Police Scotland in recent months, the First Minister said the Labour leader had forgotten to mention recorded crime is at a 40-year low.
Responding, Mr Rennie tweeted: “Recorded crime may be at a low – actual crime isn’t.”
He said cybercrime and large-scale business fraud was going unreported, adding: “Crime has changed”. Speaking later, Mr Rennie said the recorded crime figures were a source of “frustration” for the force, as well as the continued government commitment to providing a 1,000 more police officers than when it came to power in 2007.
He said: “The government is very supportive of policing – we can’t get away from that. Unfortunately, they are politically tied to the thousand extra cops because they have said so often that it’s brought around a 40-year crime low. Actually, it’s not true. The 40-year crime low is happening everywhere because crime has changed.”
He added: “Political parties get themselves into political positions. They get entrenched and they don’t move. We appreciate the support we get from the government, but if they continue to tie us down to a thousand extra officers, we’re going to have nothing left. We’ll have 17,234 officers, but won’t have any offices, cars, computer, pens...
“If you take the 17,234 (commitment) away and allow us to have a balanced workforce and decide where we spend our money, then we can actually prioritise properly. We can’t do that under the current constraints.”
In response a Scottish Government spokesman pointed to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey which measures crime trends, including crime not reported to the police which “confirm reductions in crime levels across Scotland.”
He added: “The SPA is actively undertaking work to look at the changing and longer term demands on policing and this will report in Summer 2016. The Scottish Government, alongside Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, is committed to maintaining officer numbers and exceeding the 1,000 extra officer commitment keeping our communities safe.”
At yesterday’s FMQs Ms Dugdale said: “The last few months have been some of the worst in the history of policing. The resignation of the chief constable and the Scottish Police Authority chair. Morale at rock bottom. A third of staff preparing to leave. Civilian staff numbers cut. Bogus figures over stop-and-search. A lack of transparency over armed policing. A 20 per cent increase in housebreaking in Edinburgh. Controversy over deaths in police custody. Allegations of spying on journalists. A £25 million budget overspend.
“Judge me on my record, says the first minister. What’s her verdict on that record?”
Ms Sturgeon said: “Kezia Dugdale is right to hold this government to account, but it’s her miserable approach that denies anything good about this country that sees her and her party languishing in the opinion polls.”