Sturgeon: May has '˜tough questions' to answer over policing
Scotland’s First Minister insisted she was “not complacent” about the possibility of a terror attack but argued the Scottish Government’s record of maintaining police numbers meant there is a stark contrast in the situation north and south of the border.
The Liberal Democrats claimed Police Scotland needs an extra £55 million to help the force cope with demands, claiming the force had been left “battered and bruised” as a result of “mismanagement and poor leadership” by the SNP.
Ms Sturgeon spoke out after terrorists brought carnage to the streets of Britain for the second time in as many weeks, killing seven people in London on Saturday night and leaving 21 fighting for their lives.
Pedestrians were mowed down by a van on London Bridge before attackers stabbed a police officer and revellers around Borough Market with 12-inch knives, with Islamic State claiming responsibility.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said ‘’we need to look at our resourcing’’ in response to the emerging terrorism threat.
In response, Theresa May, who served as home secretary before entering Number 10, said government had protected counter-terrorism policing budgets and had funded an uplift in the number of armed police officers.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Terrorists are responsible for the acts they commit, nobody else, but for a Prime Minister to stand up yesterday and say ‘enough is enough’ when she has been home secretary for the past number of years, presiding over cuts in frontline policing, presiding over the whole range of justice policies, then she clearly has questions to answer.
“In Scotland we clearly work hard with the police and others to tackle extremism at source, we’re not complacent about that, we’re not immune from these threats, but unlike other parts of the UK we have also maintained police numbers and increased armed policing.
“Governments have got a big responsibility to do everything they can to keep populations safe and I think Theresa May’s got some tough questions about her own record in government.”
Ms Sturgeon said the SNP had “worked hard” in office to “make sure that on an ongoing basis we are providing the police with the resources they need”.
She added: “The contrast between Scotland and the UK couldn’t be starker, there’s been 20,000 police officers lost in England, but in Scotland we’ve maintained 1,000 more than the number we inherited in 2007, we’ve taken steps to increase the number who are trained to carry firearms.
“Of course we’ve got to make sure that continues to be the case but if you look at the days following the Manchester attack, Police Scotland were able to provide the heightened level of police cover, including armed policing, without calling on the resources of the military.
“I’m not complacent and we’ve got to make sure our police officers are well-resourced and well-equipped, but I think Scotland here is in a much stronger position than other parts of the UK.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie insisted police in Scotland needed a multi-million pound funding boost to make the force “fit for the future”.
He said: “Our once proud police service has been battered and bruised in recent years as a result of mismanagement and poor leadership, including the abolition of the eight forces to create one, centralised force.
“Especially with terrorist attacks and threats from modern crime, we need to ensure our police service is fit for the future.
“That is why we have argued for some time that Police Scotland needs a multi-million boost to ensure it can meet the challenge.
“In the Scottish budget negotiations we made a strong case for an additional £20 million for the police budget. This was rejected by the Scottish Government.
“In our manifesto we have made the case for Police Scotland to be made exempt by the UK Government from VAT. This would release another £35 million.”