Scottish Daily Mail

Cuts to police ‘catastroph­ic’ in crime f ight

- By Tom Eden Deputy Scottish Political Editor

POLICE officers are struggling to tackle crimes amid ‘catastroph­ic’ cuts to officer numbers, the head of the Scottish Police Federation has warned.

In a stark message at the SNP conference, David Kennedy hit out at the ‘devastatin­g’ impact of dwindling numbers and condemned the ‘bleak’ state of the force under the Nationalis­ts.

The SPF general secretary also said Police Scotland’s decision to no longer investigat­e every crime reported to the force will be a ‘disastrous’ failure.

In what was branded a ‘shabby surrender to criminals’ by the Tories, officers across the northeast have been ordered not to follow up on crimes such as some break-ins and thefts, where there are no leads or CCTV evidence. Mr Kennedy said the pilot scheme – which he believes ‘will not work’ – is the latest symptom of a lack of funding and officer numbers.

When the SNP came to power in 2007, there were 16,267 officers, rising to 17,496 in 2013. A decade later, the figure is 16,614. But this is forecast to plunge below 16,000, driven by a recruitmen­t freeze and increased retirement­s. Speaking in Aberdeen yesterday at a conference event, Mr Kennedy said: ‘Over the last year and a half we have seen a quite catastroph­ic cut in the numbers. To lose 1,500 officers on what we had over the last 13 years is not a good state to be in.

‘We know they’re trialling not attending calls and not going to speak to people. That’s devastatin­g. If you’re not attending calls, all you’re going to get is a reactive police force.’

Challenged about the situation, Nationalis­t MSP Audrey Nicoll agreed there was a profound problem with funding. Ms Nicoll, who worked in the police for more than three decades before entering parliament, said: ‘There is absolutely no doubt – and there is no getting away from the fact – that the outlook is extremely challengin­g.’

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay said: ‘This warning from the Scottish Police Federation lays bare the extent of the challenge facing the new chief constable, who’s being expected to do more with less. Ministers need to fix the damage they have caused.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17. Scotland continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales.’

‘1,500 officers lost... that’s devastatin­g’

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