The Scottish Police Authority plans to cut the number of police officers in Scotland.
The cost-cutting plan, which would save £2.7 million, was outlined in a draft budget report which will be presented at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) today.
Opposition politicians and officers’ representatives were infuriated by the proposal arguing there was no room in the over-stretched force for cuts.
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The draft budget said the ability to cut numbers came as a result of freeing up 100 officers from the back office in 2017/18.
It claimed Scotland would “continue to receive the same level of front line policing as it has for the past 10 years but at a lower cost to the taxpayer”.
The draft budget also highlighted an expected £35.6 million operating deficit in 2018/19 – a gap that is down from the £47.2 million in the previous year’s budget and part of a three year commitment to the Scottish Government to eliminate the deficit by 2020/21.
When the SNP first came into government in 2007, it promised to increase police numbers by 1,000. That pledge, however, was quietly dropped in 2016.
The most recent figures show Police Scotland had 17,256 full-time equivalent officers on December 31, 2017.
The draft 2018/19 budget allows for 17,134 police officers, which would take the numbers below the Scottish Government’s commitment for a 1,000 increase from 2007 when there were 16,234 officers.
Shadow Justice Secretary Liam Kerr said: “The police frontline is already stretched, and people will be concerned that this move could make that worse.”
Labour’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “The SNP’s stewardship of police numbers has been shambolic – and it is no wonder public confidence in the force is at rock bottom.”
Scottish Police Federation vice-chairman David Hamilton said it looked as if the cut was based on the “back of a fag packet calculation”.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said more work would have to be done before the cuts were implemented.
A Scottish Government spokesman said officers remained above the level inherited in 2007 and added the SPA should seek assurances that operational policing capacity had increased.