SNP honours promise of 1,000 extra police officers
THE Scottish Government has reached its target of putting an extra 1,000 police officers on Scotland's streets two years early, it has been revealed.
The number of officers employed in Scotland rose to 17,278 in the second quarter of 2009, an increase of 1,044 since the SNP came to power in May 2007.
The latest quarterly increase includes 19 more officers in the Grampian force, 26 in Lothian and Borders and 186 in Strathclyde.
Over the last few months, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has faced a barrage of criticism over plans to drop short-term sentences, new measures to tackle alcohol problems, escaped prisoners, and the decision to let the Lockerbie bomber go home early on compassionate grounds.
Opponents have claimed he is "a soft touch" when it comes to dealing with crime. But, welcoming the record number of officers, Mr MacAskill said: "The fact that this target has already been reached shows our determination to provide our police forces with the capability and resources to deter crime and police our communities.
"This continuing increase is in part the result of our direct recruitment of new officers, over and above the recruitment plans of our police forces.
"We are also working with forces on retention of officers. Our chief constables should be congratulated for redeploying their officers and delivering more police on our streets as this government delivers record numbers to our police forces."
However, there have been warnings from Scotland's police forces that the record gains may be short-lived with the looming threat of cuts.
Last month, Strathclyde Police, Scotland's largest force, claimed it was facing a budget shortfall of 35million which may mean it will not replace officers who retire or leave. Similar warnings have been issued by senior figures from the Lothian and Grampian forces.
Labour's justice spokesman, Richard Baker, said: "There is no point crowing over officer numbers today if they are going to fall in years to come. Kenny MacAskill is responsible for forcing Scotland's police into the worst budget crisis in decades.
"The news from Strathclyde Police is very bleak and there is only one man to blame and that's the justice secretary."
Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown added: "Before these figures are celebrated, the justice secretary needs to state once and for all that the multi-million-pound black hole in Strathclyde Police Board's funding won't jeopardise this progress. Without this, these government figures are just disingenuous political grandstanding."
The Conservatives welcomed the new record police numbers, but pointed out they were only achieved because of pressure from them in the 2008 budget.
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