Edinburgh shops' plan to pay for dedicated police officer raises big questions – Daniel Johnson

As a former retailer, I understand why there is a desire among those behind the Edinburgh Old Town Business Improvement District (BID) for a police presence in the local area.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 11:07 am
A draft proposal for an Old Town business improvement district (BID) contains the idea that it could pay for a 'dedicated BID police officer' (Picture: John Devlin)

Retailers, unfortunately, deal with a range of issues, from petty theft to abuse directed at staff, and a local police response, which is able to react quickly and effectively, is always going to be helpful.

But what this really boils down to, yet again, is the lack of resources available to Edinburgh, meaning fewer officers on the beat.

In Edinburgh, we have 3,482 police officers, compared to the 5,441 based in the Glasgow division. What this fails to take into account is the fact that Edinburgh’s population doubles each summer and throughout the year the city hosts the Scottish Parliament, the Queen and the world’s largest cultural festival.

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We simply don’t have enough officers either in Edinburgh to police the various busy world-class events and provide a local community-based service to residents.

Police Scotland has one of the lowest levels of capital spend per officer in the UK. To compound that, Edinburgh lost around 40 officers with the creation of Police Scotland and a lack of mobile IT often means that officers are tied up for hours after every arrest they make.

While some may say “stay in their lane” to the idea of a city BID paying for a police presence, I think we need to ask why businesses feel the need to pay for that presence in the first place and why do Police Scotland feel the need to consider that offer?

Daniel Johnson is Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern