The bodies representing both rank and file and senior police officers have warned that “dangerously misleading” statistics on recorded crime are being used to mask problems with the national force.
The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) said Police Scotland faced “daunting” financial challenges and said reporting about recorded crime being at a 42-year low did not “in any way” represent day-to-day challenges.
The Scottish Police Federation said Police Scotland was on a “precipice” and needed £200 million to restore its ageing building estate.
The SPF, which represents the rank and file, said the reliance on recorded crime as a measure of police effectiveness was “dangerously misleading” and accused Police Scotland of “developing a narrative” around cyber-crime to soften public opinion to the prospect of having fewer officers on the streets.
In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s justice sub-committee on policing, Chief Superintendent Gordon Crossan, of ASPS, said: “The association has significant concerns that
Police Scotland does not have a sufficient budget to maintain present officer and staff numbers as well as look after the force estate, fleet, equipment and consider future IT solutions that will require capital investment.
“I am concerned at the positive reporting around a 42-year low in ‘recorded crime’ as this does not, in any way, represent the demand placed on a modern police service.”
In his submission, Calum Steele, general secretary of the SPF, said: “The police service in Scotland is on a precipice. The once world-revered policing service we delivered is at risk of disappearing forever.”
Police Scotland was set up in 2013 with the aim of saving a total of £1.1 billion by 2026 but is facing an overspend of £27.1 million on its revenue budget in the current financial year.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly deflected criticism of the national force by pointing to statistics showing recorded crime is at its lowest level since the mid-1970s.
However, officers say the figures present an incomplete picture of what they have to deal with.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said: “It’s no surprise to see the SNP’s low-crime claims derided by those who actually know what’s going on.
“Ministers have spent years pointing to these statistics, but they don’t chime with what’s happening on the ground or the perception among the public.
“These submissions should act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government, which needs to start paying attention when experts speak.”
In a joint submission to today’s committee, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority said they were working to set out a vision and strategy for policing over the next decade.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Police Scotland continue to perform strongly and the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland are working on a long-term strategy for a flexible, modern and sustainable police service, building on the recently-published strategic policing priorities.
“At the same time we have committed to protecting the police resource budget in real terms in every year of this Parliament, delivering a boost of £100 million by 2021. We have also provided an additional £55 million of reform funding in 2016-17.
"However, we remain deeply concerned that unfair treatment from the UK Treasury has cost the public purse more than £76 million in three years by making Police Scotland pay VAT, whereas none of the other 44 police forces in the UK have had to do so."