Police Scotland postpones intake of 200 probationary officers in January and pauses all training over festive period amid budget pressures
Police Scotland has announced it is postponing an intake of 200 probationary officers in January amid funding pressures.
The force also said it will pause all training and redirect officers to support and maintain operational policing over the busy festive period. It comes after Deputy Chief Constable-designate Fiona Taylor warned the force faces “hard choices” to maintain effective policing within the funding available.
And it follows Chief Superintendent Barry Blair, Divisional Commander Forth Valley, saying the force could lose as many as 2000 staff nationally over the next three to four years.
Police Scotland said no offers to candidates for the postponed January 8, 2024 intake have yet been made and the application process will continue for next year, with the next intake in March.
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), the organisation representing rank-and-file officers, described the news as “shocking” and warned the country was “facing a public safety crisis”.
Police Scotland said the intake of 200 probationers, who took their oath of office on September 20, will finish their training at Tulliallan on December 8 and will then be deployed to their divisions.
Ms Taylor said: “I have been clear that we will continue to communicate about the hard choices being taken to maintain effective policing within the funding available. As I outlined during the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) board meeting in September, we have been closely assessing the officer recruitment profile for 2023/24 and I have now taken the decision to reprofile the planned intakes over the rest of the year by postponing the January course.
“Despite the funding pressures we’re facing, communities should be reassured that we are doing everything possible to direct resources to areas which encounter the greatest demand, and which carry the greatest risk, and that we continue to effectively reduce harm and protect the vulnerable.”
The force also said that pausing training from December 1 to January 31 will ensure frontline officers are available for their core policing duties over the Christmas and new year period, traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for policing.
Ms Taylor told the SPA on September 28 of the urgent action being taken to prioritise resources and protect the vulnerable while the force seeks to achieve savings. Police support staff recruitment has been paused, except for some business-critical areas such as contact centres and custody suites, and the force is reviewing senior officer command structures and support services.
Outline proposals to accelerate the disposal of around 30 police buildings were shared with the SPA last month and further details will be announced when consultation plans are finalised.
David Kennedy, general secretary of the SPF, said it is “shocking” to hear that no recruitment will take place until spring 2024.
He said: “We expect a larger than normal number to retire in the last quarter of this year because of changes to the pension scheme, so we are likely to see hundreds of officers less than we have now.
“We are already almost 1,000 down on the 2013 number (the year Police Scotland was created) so it is no exaggeration to say we are facing a public safety crisis.
“The Scottish Government simply has to find more money for policing, and do it now.”
Police Scotland has already cut officer numbers from 17,234 to 16,600 in 2023/24.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While this decision is an operational matter for the Chief Constable, we note that this is for a short time and allows police to focus their resources during a busy period and to ensure the recruitment standard is of the level they expect.
“There are over 350 more police officers than in 2007 and around 1,480 new recruits have joined Police Scotland since the beginning of 2022. Scotland has more police officers per capita than England and Wales, and higher pay ranges for officers at all ranks and high levels of investment over the last decade.”
The Scottish Government said policing is a priority and that it has increased police funding year on year since 2016-17, investing more than £11.6 billion since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013, with £1.45 billion being invested this year.
It also said recorded crime is at one of its lowest levels in nearly 50 years.
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay said: “Police Scotland’s new chief constable takes office on Monday morning. SNP ministers must give her and every other police officer the respect of being honest about the price of their spending decisions.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “We know many officers feel unsupported and overwhelmed. SNP ministers must finally heed the concerns of officers before it is too late.”
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