The Scottish Government has been warned the proposed budget settlement for Police Scotland threatens to send the force on the same “miserable journey” as its counterparts in England and Wales.
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said the loss of police officers elsewhere in the UK had left forces unable to attend many incidents, with crimes recorded but not investigated.
Earlier this week it emerged Police Scotland has cancelled plans to cut 300 officer posts at a cost of £12.6 million amid uncertainty over Brexit.
It followed dire warnings by the SPF, which represents the rank and file, that Police Scotland needs an additional 750-900 officers to maintain public safety during Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
In a new update to MSPs on Holyrood’s justice sub-committee on policing, the SPF said the total revenue funding allocated to the police service in the Scottish Government’s 2019/20 draft budget amounted to a cut when compared to the £1.2bn available to forces prior to the creation of Police Scotland in 2013.
Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) have said that alongside a proposed £1.1 billion draft revenue settlement for 2019-20, a proposed capital settlement of £40m would fall “well short” of the £90m required, while a reform settlement of £25m was half of what had been formally requested of the Scottish Government.
SPF General Secretary Calum Steele said: “The loss of police officers across England and Wales has left the service there unable to attend many incidents, and many crimes are simply recorded, rather than investigated.
“The consequences for Scotland will be even more stark not least as much of the critical infrastructure needed to support police officers in discharging their duties is crumbling or non-existent.”
He added: “Policing in Scotland is at a crossroads. The direction it heads next is not entirely in its own gift. If the political decisions are taken to underfund the police service the road ahead promises to offer a miserable journey.
"Our sister organisation in England and Wales warned the home secretary of the consequences of her underfunding the police service there. She ignored them and their every concern
has been borne out.”
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, said: “Police Scotland has been as damaged by the SNP’s rushed decision-making and lack of strategic direction as by the SNP’s failure of support.
“Police Scotland continues to face an extremely challenging environment, yet the SNP has repeatedly taken decisions that undermine its capability such as railroading the BTP merger, which it still refuses to take off the table.
“The justice secretary must now deliver and give Police Scotland the direction and support it needs to keep the people of Scotland safe and catch criminals.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s budget for policing in 2019/20 will rise to over £1.2 billion. This is an additional £42.3 million for the Scottish Police Authority budget, an increase of 3.7 per cent for 2019-20, delivered in the context of a very tight fiscal environment.
“We will also continue to press the UK Government for the £125m paid in VAT between 2013 and 2018 – this has been a windfall for the Treasury and is money that should have been available to invest in keeping Scotland’s communities safe.”
He added: “We remain committed to protecting the police revenue budget in real terms in every year of this Parliament, delivering an additional £100 million of investment over that period. However, the UK government’s chaotic approach to Brexit remains a significant threat to Scotland’s public services.”