Police Scotland cash crisis driving controversial link-ups

The chief constable of Police Scotland has admitted his force is under financial pressure to provide controversial training to colleagues overseas.

Chief Constable Phil Gormley. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Chief Constable Phil Gormley. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

Phil Gormley told Westminster’s Home Affairs Select Committee that his force faced “significant” budgetary difficulties after being asked about links to countries with poor human rights records.

He was questioned by MPs after it emerged Police Scotland is providing training in countries such as Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates.

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Mr Gormley said his cash-strapped force was looking at ways of “legitimately raising revenue” and was operating with the full knowledge of the Scottish Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Under questioning from Labour MP David Winnick about links to countries with records of police torture and brutality, Mr Gormley said: “What you are referring to is our outreach work. All of that is done with full knowledge of the Scottish Government and FCO. What we are doing is trying to improve standards of policing around the globe and learn where relevant.”

Mr Gormley said officers had provided training to colleagues in the UAE on child protection and road accidents, but he denied suggestions the work would compromise investigations at home.

He said: “We are under significant budgetary pressures. If you can legitimately raise revenue in terms of cost recovery from sporting events or through the delivery of training domestically or internationally, then we will seek to do it.”

Asked by MPs if he could afford the manpower for the overseas work, he answered: “The answer is yes and we would not compromise our ability to deliver at home to make relatively modest amounts of money abroad.”

The chief constable was repeatedly questioned about his force’s overseas work after a report yesterday that Police Scotland is seeking to extend a controversial training project in Sri Lanka, despite evidence that the South Asian force has been involved in torture.

Police Scotland is understood to have had a contract to help develop “ethical leadership” at Sri Lanka’s National Police Academy.

According to human rights organisations, the authorities in Sri Lanka have used methods of torture including beatings, rape, electric shocks and mock executions.

It was reported earlier this month that the Police Scotland College has made nearly £1.8 million training officers from countries including Pakistan and South Sudan.

Concerns have repeatedly been raised about the financial position of Police Scotland, which must make savings totalling £1.1 billion by 2026.

Mr Winnick said: “Why is the Scottish Police College being funded by various countries with appalling human rights records?

“Sri Lanka, South Sudan, UAE: countries which have carried out torture and brutality – violations which Scottish parliamentarians would be aghast at.”

The MP for Walsall North said police in the UAE had tortured Britons arrested on drugs charges, while the authorities in South Sudan had a “notorious” record of brutality.

l Police Scotland looks set to increase its number of armed officers amid fears the force is not equipped to deal with the terrorist threat.

Giving evidence to the home affairs select committee in the Commons yesterday, Mr Gormley said he would meet justice secretary Michael Matheson tomorrow to discuss possible changes to Scotland’s firearms capability.

Following the Paris attacks in November, the Scottish Police Federation said Scotland was “woefully under-equipped, under-resourced and under-prepared” for a similar incident.

Police forces elsewhere in the UK, including the Metropolitan Police, have increased armed officer numbers in recent months.

Mr Gormley told MPs: “We’ve been looking at the capacity we have and our number of officers over the last few weeks and months and the tactical capability we have.”

Speaking later,Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said: “We constantly review our capability capacity and deployment model.

“ In light of the prime minister’s recent announcement regarding the increase of a thousand officers in England and Wales it would have been remiss of Police Scotland not to consider how this impacts on Scotland.”