Comment: Edinburgh can be a powderkeg

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They are known as the boys in blue – and the nickname has rarely been more appropriate.There is going to be a youthful look about the police officers on duty in Edinburgh this Christmas. City commander Mark Williams has drafted in 50 fresh-faced cadets from the police training college at Tulliallan to support the 100 officers who would have been patrolling the streets.

As the Christmas party season kicks into gear, parts of the city centre can become a bit of a powderkeg as drunken party-goers flood the streets. Throw gangs of pickpockets into the mix and you have a pretty volatile cocktail.

Having an extra 50 officers on the streets at this time has got to help keep a lid on things which could easily get out of hand.

As Police Scotland faces up to £140 million in cuts over the next two years, it needs to make the most of the resources it has got.

Getting its probationers out on the streets at one of the busiest times of year to help out their more experienced colleagues is perhaps a sensible step when nothing else is possible.

But it is a scenario which does raise concerns.

Does pitching cadets with only a few weeks training into a potential cauldron like this really make sense? A situation can quickly turn in circumstances like this from drunken laughter to violence.

This could be sink or swim for some of these trainees. It will be great experience for the majority who will enjoy an early chance to show their mettle, but it is an unforgiving environment in which to make your first mistakes.

The other worry is the precedent that it sets. Will we find in years to come that it becomes an accepted part of policing that trainees with only a couple of weeks in uniform can go out and do the job of a 
fully-qualified officer? That must not be allowed to happen.

Of course, we want innovative thinking from our police chiefs, and they must be ready to make the most of all the resources they have at their fingertips.

But that must not come at the cost of ushering in a new era of policing on the cheap.