Cop numbers dropped to 16,610 at the end of June – well below Police Scotland’s “full officer establishment” of 17,234.
Justice secretary Keith Brown said the Scottish Government welcomed the decision[/caption]
The cop roll call has come into sharp focus with numbers falling amid a training backlog and twin retirement and recruitment crises[/caption]
And there are fears they could plunge further, despite the Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone warning the fall was harming responses to the public.
Figures this week showed sex crimes in Scotland surged by nearly a fifth and violent crimes were up by nine per cent in a year.
But in a workforce planning report, watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland recommended to drop the 17,234 number to give flexibilty to top brass.
Asked in a written question for his response to the advice, SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: ‘The Scottish Government welcomes the recommendations.”
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Last night, Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay said: “To see the SNP Justice Secretary welcome a commitment to effectively reduce police numbers permanently is shameful, yet sadly unsurprising.
“Officer numbers are already 600 below the SNP’s original target and this statement from Keith Brown seems to confirm he doesn’t intend to give the police the funding to hit it again.
“The Chief Constable has spoken of the force’s struggle to respond to calls from the public due to falling officer numbers and the Justice Secretary abandoning his duty to support the police will only make matters worse.
“We need to see more officers patrolling Scotland’s streets, not fewer. “
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At a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority last month, Sir Iain said: “We are seeing the impact in our service of having fewer officers across a range of operational areas including a responsiveness to calls from the public.”
In June, Sir Iain told how his force faces having to slash cop numbers as SNP ministers were set to break an election promise with real-terms cuts to police funding – even before inflation spiralled.
The 17,234 baseline emerged from the SNP’s 1,000 extra officers pledge when they swept to power in 2007 – being 1,000 above the total at the time.
It was criticised for not giving bosses flexibility after forces merged in 2012, when civilian staff numbers had to be slashed amid funding cuts.
SNP ministers began to back away from the minimum demand several years ago, but then kept on funding it. And it remains the force’s “full officer establishment”.
The total has come into sharp focus with numbers falling amid a training backlog and twin retirement and recruitment crises.
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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “National police numbers remain higher than at any time during the previous 1999-2007 administration.
“Officer numbers in Scotland are also favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK – with around 31 officers per 10,000 population in Scotland compared to around 24 in England and Wales as at March 2022.”
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