21 Aug 2019

700 police officers to be cut in Scotland

Scotland Correspondent

Police Scotland’s deputy chief constable tells Channel 4 News that the repercussions will ‘significantly cut our operational resilience and capacity’.

Police numbers in Scotland face a cut of over 700 officers, Channel 4 News has been told.

Police Scotland’s deputy chief constable, Will Kerr, said its budget was “incompatible” with maintaining officer numbers at the present level.

DCC Kerr said the cut of around 4% in officer numbers would come into effect as the force prepares for what it calls an “exceptional” operational environment, including responding to a potential no-deal Brexit and the possibility of civil unrest.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, DCC Kerr said: “Next year is going to provide a bit of a challenge for us. Operationally we’re going to be very busy, but we have a growing fiscal deficit at Police Scotland. And those two things don’t give us a sustainable financial base – they are incompatible.”

He added: “The repercussions are fairly obvious – they will obviously significantly cut our operational resilience and capacity.”

Kerr explained: “Police Scotland currently has over 17,200 warranted police officers. We know we’ll need the capacity and the resilience that gives us to be able to manage these what is going to be quite an exceptional operational environment, starting with Brexit and leading right up to what potentially could be the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November in 2020.

“We know we need a strong resilient force. We don’t need any more police officers. But, as the Chief Constable pointed out this morning to the Scottish Police Authority, our budgetary provision for next year only allows us to afford just under 16,500 police officers. Those two things are not compatible.

“It’s a cut of over 700 police officers potentially… But we do have support from the Scottish Government this year to meet that deficit when it comes to some of those Brexit responsibilities. So we have a commitment – and very welcome commitment – from the Scottish Government, additional funding up to £17m to support us to retain the 400 officers we need this year to manage some of the consequences of Brexit.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “In recognition of the range of challenges Police Scotland are facing, particularly in relation to a no-deal EU Exit, we have assured the SPA that up to £17 million is available this year to cover EU exit-related policing costs. We are continuing to engage closely with the SPA and Police Scotland to support them in keeping people safe.

“Ministers have been clear that any potential future reductions in officer numbers must be offset by demonstrable increases in operational capacity, through service transformation, and we asked HMICS to work with SPA and Police Scotland to ensure rigorous monitoring of this and of the Policing 2026 programme, including workforce numbers assurance.

The spokesperson said: “Annual funding for Police Scotland is now more than £1.2 billion. While the detailed balance of officers, specialists and other police staff is a matter for the Chief Constable, officer numbers in Scotland remain significantly above 2007 levels – in contrast to a drop of almost 19,000 officers in England and Wales.

“As well as pursuing the UK Government to ensure it meets the full costs of EU exit, we will continue to press them to pay back the £125 million VAT paid by Police Scotland before the Treasury reversed this unfair policy in 2018.”