Police Scotland cuts ‘foolish in wake of Paris attacks’

The Scottish Government would be foolish to continue with its programme of police cuts in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, a senior police officers’ representative has warned.

Police Scotland is struggling to meet a savings target of 1.1bn. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Police Scotland is struggling to meet a savings target of 1.1bn. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Police Scotland is struggling to meet the police reform savings target of £1.1 billion demanded by the SNP administration, and is facing a spiralling £25 million shortfall this year.

Calum Steele, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said “the first duty of government is to protect its citizens” and the SNP must recognise the additional pressures the heightened terror threat has placed on the force.

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Police Scotland is understood to be in close contact with the Scottish Government about the potential implications of the Paris incident.

The Scottish Government said it has maintained officer numbers and invested £73m in a serious incident campus at Gartcosh, in “stark contrast” to the predicted 15,000 officer cuts in England and Wales.

But opposition parties said they cannot stand by while Police Scotland struggles to make cuts at a time of heightened threat.

Mr Steele said: “When Police Scotland was created, the expectation to save £1.1bn in its first ten years was placed upon it. That was set against a normal policing background.

“Since then the terror threat and the threat level nationally has increased to its highest level, and that has resulted in additional pressures to the budget.

“The first duty of government is to protect its citizens, and that cannot be done if it cuts investment in policing.

“Clearly, events in Paris have caused police services to reassess their capabilities all over the world.

“It would be foolish for any government to expect policing to continue to cut at this time of heightened threat.”

Options to close the budget gap are currently being discussed behind closed doors by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), amid concerns that they would be unpalatable and “politically unacceptable”.

Police Scotland is prevented from cutting officer numbers below 17,234 – 1,000 more than the SNP inherited.

Planned police staff redundancies have been shelved following the damning HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report into police call handling following the deaths of two people on the M9. Plans to sell police buildings are dependent on finding buyers, and until they are sold they are a drain on resources.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This government has delivered 1,000 additional officers since 2007, in stark contrast to the situation in England and Wales, where police numbers are expected to fall by around 15,000 over the UK government’s comprehensive spending review period.”