Edinburgh police officers 'left to fend for themselves' in face of rising violent crime
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Police officers in Edinburgh have been left to "fend for themselves" in the face of rising violent crime, an MSP has claimed.
Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber raised the issue of police numbers in the Capital at General Question Time in the Scottish Parliament, saying there had been a drop of 76 officers since the formation of Police Scotland just over a decade ago.
She said: "Since the Scottish National Party government decided to merge Scotland’s police forces into one, that action has had a devastating impact on the visible footprint of police officers in our communities.
"It is no wonder that recorded violent crime in Edinburgh has increased by 10 per cent in the past year alone. Why has the SNP Government left our hard-working police officers to fend for themselves in the face of rising violent crime?"
Justice Secretary Angela Constance said there were 48 more officers deployed in Edinburgh as of December 31, 2023, compared to the same point in 2022. Additionally, police Edinburgh access specialist regional and national expertise when that is required to meet demand.
Ms Constance said she welcomed the chief constable’s commitment to restarting officer recruitment in March. And she said: "Since this government took office in 2007, Scotland is safer - recorded crime is at one of the historic lows since 1974 - and there has been a decrease of 40 per cent in recorded crime. Our police officers remain the best paid in the United Kingdom, and we continue to have more hard-working police officers now compared with what we inherited in 2007."
Statistics published earlier this week were seized on by opposition parties who pointed out the number of police officers in Scotland had fallen to its lowest level for more than 15 years. On December 31, 2023, Police Scotland had 16,363 full-time equivalent officers, down by 250 on the end of September and 282 fewer than at the end of 2022.
Police numbers were at their lowest since the second quarter of 2008 when there were 16,339. In the 2007 election campaign, the SNP pledged to increase officer numbers by 1,000. Numbers rose above 17,000 early in 2009 and did not fall below 17,000 until the first quarter of 2022.
When the figures were published Ms Constance said that Scotland has more police per person than England. And she argued that despite deeply challenging financial circumstances, the Scottish Government's budget for next year includes record police funding of £1.55 billion.