Police Scotland scraps plan to cut officer numbers amid Brexit security concerns
Police Scotland has shelved plans to cut 300 officer posts amid uncertainty over the impact of Brexit.
The national force had planned to save £12.6 million by further reducing officer numbers in 2019-20.
But in an update to MSPs, it said the measure would “not be appropriate,” adding that Chief Constable Iain Livingstone had brought forward plans to recruitment 120 extra officers in the current financial year.
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents the rank and file, has previously warned that Police Scotland needs an additional 900 officers to maintain public safety during Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
Mr Livingstone has said his officers are on stand-by to provide support to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) following Brexit should Police Scotland receive a so-called mutual aid request.
In a submission sent to Holyrood’s justice sub-committee on policing commenting on the draft 2019-20 Scottish Government budget, Police Scotland said: “In order to fulfil his responsibilities, the chief constable has decided to bring forward the recruitment of 120 officers in this financial year to ensure capacity and resilience is in place to prepare against a range of contingencies associated with Brexit.
“The deputy chief officer has been tasked with identifying savings in the current year to redirect funding to develop this additional capacity.
“For 2019-20, it would not be appropriate to reduce, in the first half of the financial year, the service by 300 officers, as has been budgeted for.”
It added: “The [SPA] and Police Scotland recognises the constraints on public finances and has made significant savings while largely protecting officer numbers, in contrast to the overall picture in England and Wales.”
The police funding settlement is made up of three different budgets – revenue, capital and reform.
Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) said that alongside a proposed £1.1 billion draft revenue settlement for 2019-20, a proposed capital settlement of £40m would fall “well short” of the £90m required, while a reform settlement of £25m was half of what had been formally requested of the Scottish Government.
Mr Livingstone had told the SPA board in November that planning for the effects of EU withdrawal was an “extremely dynamic and fast-moving” process.
He said an initial assessment had predicted delays for people and goods at airports and ports and said there were likely to be “mutual aid requests” from other forces. One scenario Mr Livingstone’s officers have been preparing for is food shortages after Brexit.
Later in the same meeting, Deputy Chief Officer David Page said the “very substantial reduction” in capital and reform funding would lower morale, undermine attempts to defeat organised crime and leave Police Scotland unable to do little more than “keep the lights on”.
Speaking ahead of the meeting on Thursday, when justice secretary Humza Yousaf will appear before MSPs, justice sub-committee convener John Finnie said: “Rank and file and senior officers alike are telling us that the police service in Scotland is not being given the money it needs.
“The sub-committee will be pressing the cabinet secretary on the rationale behind the budget proposal, and how he believes Police Scotland can meet the increasing demands placed upon it.”