FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon declares policing a 'priority' amid officer fury over 'lowball' pay offer

Nicola Sturgeon has declared policing is a “priority” for the Scottish Government, in the wake of a decision to withdraw “all goodwill” for serving officers.

The Scottish Police Federation, which represents frontline officers, has confirmed “all goodwill” will be withdrawn from 5pm on Friday.

The decision means Scotland’s police officers will not start shifts early or take police radios home with them as they embark on their most disruptive action in 100 years in a dispute over pay.

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Chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone last week warned officer numbers may need to be cut as he voiced his disappointment at the recent funding allocation from the Government, saying policing is not a “priority” for ministers.

Questioned by Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross on whether Sir Iain was correct, Ms Sturgeon said: “Policing is very clearly a priority for this Government. It has been every month, year that this Government has been in office.

"I think that is demonstrated by the fact that in Scotland we have 32 officers per 10,000 population. That compares to the situation in England, where the Conservatives are currently in government, of just 23 police officers per 10,000 population. That speaks I think for itself."

Mr Ross, who described the Government’s pay offer for police officers of a £565 annual increase as “low-ball”, said: “Police officers that the First Minister speaks of, they have said all they see from the Government are self-congratulatory narratives that disguise reality. We have seen it all over again today.

Nicola Sturgeon, seen with John Swinney in Holyrood, at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

"The First Minister mentioned pay. The Scottish Police Federation described the SNP Government’s latest pay offer as derisory.

"They say, and this is a direct quote, that officers are incandescent at the current pay offer. They are beyond angry at how insulting it is and I think they will be even more insulted to have heard the First Minister’s response.”

The First Minister said: “I don't expect any police office or any public sector worker to congratulate the Government. The gratitude and congratulations are entirely from the Government to those working hard across our country.”

Under pressure from Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Ms Sturgeon separately admitted improvements were needed after the worst ever cancer waiting times were recorded in Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon poses with an LED display. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty

Figures published by Public Health Scotland earlier this week show the number of patients waiting for cancer treatment who were seen within the 62-day target had fallen to a record low.

Mr Sarwar said: “This problem predates the pandemic. In the eight years Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister, she has never met the 62-day treatment standard.

“The recovery hasn’t even started yet. In fact things have got worse.

“Instead, haven’t we gone back to the divisive Nicola Sturgeon who is now spending seven days a week, sometimes what feels like 24 hours a day, focusing on her priority of dividing our country, rather than rebuilding it?”

The First Minister acknowledged the 62-day target was “not being met”, but said the NHS had increased the number of patients being treated.

Once a decision is made to treat cancer, a patients waits an average of four days, she said.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We continue to see an increasing number of cancer referrals and the priority, of course, is to ensure that these patients receive the care they need quickly.”

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