Justice secretary Humza Yousaf has hit back at opposition MSPs over claims Police Scotland’s fleet of vehicles is not fit for purpose.
A Freedom of Information (FoI) request published by the Liberal Democrats on Sunday highlighted more than 250 police cars are more than a decade old.
It also indicated a total of 870 cars – around a quarter of the fleet – have driven 100,000 miles or more, with 126 covering between 150,000 and 200,000 miles.
Speaking at Holyrood today, Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr asked the justice secretary whether he thought it was acceptable that officers were having to apprehend criminals in vehicles “held together with duct tape”.
Mr Yousaf responded by accusing the Tory MSP of “crocodile tears”, having refused to support the Scottish Government’s budget, which was passed earlier this year after an agreement was reached with the Greens.
“Well, complete and utter crying crocodile tears from a Tory MSP that of course when we brought forward the capital budget increase of 52 per cent , he and his colleagues voted against that budget,” Mr Yousaf said.
“£100 million resource protection up until 2021 and Liam Kerr and his party voted against it.”
Mr Yousaf also accused the UK Government of “pinching” £125m in VAT money from Police Scotland and said Mr Kerr had done “hee-haw” about it.
The justice secretary added total Scottish Government funding to the Scottish Police Authorirty (SPA) for 2019/20 would increase by £42.3m, bringing the annual policing budget to more than £1.2 billion and suggested that had proposals by the Tories been implemented, the Police Scotland fleet would have been far worse off.
“Police officers wouldn’t be allowed to go around in police cars, they’d be riding around in rickshaws,” Mr Yousaf said.
“The average fleet age is five years old, the average unmarked police car has mileage of 57,00 miles, not 200,000 miles, and the overall vehicle availability is 96.4 per cent against a benchmark of 95 per cent in the rest of the UK.
“Of course, budgets will be constrained, no doubt in significant part down to the decade of austerity imposed on us by the Conservative Party.
“So instead of carping from the sidelines, crying those crocodile tears, how about he supports a budget that we’ve put forward of a 52 per cent capital uplift and then of course, we’ll continue to invest in the police while his party continues to decimate the police.”
Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said papers submitted to the SPA board last week, indicating a £56.2m gap between the police’s proposed capital spending and Scottish Government funding, exposed issues within the capital budget that goes “far beyond” the fleet.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “Unfortunately, rather than addressing these serious concerns from officers, the justice secretary chose to pick a political fight and insist that opposition politicians had no right to raise them.
“The police and the public deserve better from the Scottish Government.”