Police Scotland needs funding totalling more than £200 million to modernise its ageing computer systems amid growing concerns over cyber-enabled crime.
A report from the force’s deputy chief officer warns the urgent need to update technology is now years overdue.
And it says criminal gangs are putting further pressure on already stretched IT systems by investing heavily in their own cyber capabilities.
Police Scotland’s £46m i6 computer project was cancelled at the eleventh hour in 2016 after testing discovered a series of glitches.
It had been due to bring together more than 100 existing systems belonging to the country’s eight former police forces.
In a report to be discussed by the Scottish Police Authority board tomorrow, Deputy Chief Officer David Page, the force’s most senior civilian, warns: “Without a fundamental strategic investment in technology our current capability will continue to fall short in giving our officers and staff the tools they need to do the job to best serve our communities.
“In addition to the increasing pressure on our officers (operating inefficient processes with out of date or no technology) they will be facing the increasingly sophisticated threat, harm and risk from criminals who are investing heavily and who will be utilising technology to its fullest.”
A £600,000 study carried out on Police Scotland’s behalf by accountancy firm Ernst & Young has drawn up an outline business case for the IT improvements, which identifies the need for investment of around £206m from the Scottish Government.
It follows the publication last year of Police Scotland’s 10-year strategy, Policing 2026, which included plans to cut 400 officers by late 2020 and place an increased reliance on technology.
Daniel Johnson MSP, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “This is a deeply troubling announcement that once again shows how badly the SNP has mismanaged Police Scotland.
“The creation of Police Scotland should have been about giving our officers the best possible tools, but five years on and it is clear we are playing catch-up on technology.
“SNP ministers must urgently reassure the public that upgrades to computer systems will be properly funded and not have a further negative impact on frontline policing.”
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “This is yet another example of the SNP government failing to properly manage the IT needs of devolved areas. Those failings are now set to land the taxpayer with a bill in excess of £200m.
“And if previous IT projects under the watch of the SNP are anything to go by, this figure will merely be the tip of the iceberg.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers are committed to investing in further transformation of the service, including through real terms protection of the police resource budget in every year of this parliament. In addition, we are providing a further £31m of dedicated reform funding this year and have ensured that the service can retain the £25m previously paid to the UK Treasury in VAT each year.”