Police numbers in Scotland could be slashed due to Holyrood budget cuts, warns top cop

Police numbers in Scotland could be slashed as the national constabulary deals with a multi-million pound drop in funding, the country’s top cop has warned.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said the policing budget “was not a priority” for SNP and Green ministers.

A Scottish Government spending review last month froze budgets across the justice sector over the next five years which means a cut in real terms as inflation soars.

Livingstone told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) yesterday that he was concerned about the financial pressures facing the force.

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He claimed that over the next five years Police Scotland will see a real terms cut in its budget of around £66 million.

Livingstone said: “In March we described the gap between expected capital funding and our necessary requirements.

“Anticipated capital funding for the next five years is £26 million less than required for our fleet, £20 million less than required for our estate, and £20 million less than is required for our digital division as we seek to digitalise policing.

“The position is not the revenue protection that we expected and that high cost-of-living crisis has the potential to increase the vulnerability of people while at the same time increasing pressure on the services which exist to support them.

The Chief Constable also warned that public services, including the police, will face “difficult and exhausting” choices in the coming years about where to allocate funding, and he warned this could lead to a situation of “disharmony”.

He added: “It places additional strain across society and such pressures have the potential to lead to disruption, protest, disharmony.

“But of course policing as a public service will clearly be subject to especially high inflation and real term increases in our operating costs.

“These increased costs will not be matched by increases to our funding in the absence of real time revenue protection as laid out in a spending review.”

Livingstone also argued that pay awards for officers should be fair and affordable.

He added: “Officers and staff work incredibly hard to serve their fellow citizens and deserve fair recompense given the unique position the unique challenges and demands placed upon them and the sacrifices that come from being a holder of the office of constable.

“It is important officers and staff are rewarded fairly, particularly with their own household expenses are rising.

“I remain committed to seeking a pay settlement going through the police negotiating board. And we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to achieve this.”

Martyn Evans, the SPA chair on the Scottish Government spending review, also warned the force’s “multi-year revenue and capital plans have been thrown into disarray”

Scottish Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “It’s interesting to compare the spending commitments of Scottish nationalists now with their pre-election pledge to protect the police resource budget.

“The police budget is being hollowed out and Ian Livingstone is right to warn of the consequences.

“What people want is a community police force that turns up when a crime is committed and ensures that offenders are properly pursued.

“That is no longer guaranteed under the SNP.”

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