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by Staff reporter
27 November 2023
Criminal justice sector funding is 'unsustainable', MSPs warn

Police Scotland officers on duty in Glasgow | Alamy

Criminal justice sector funding is 'unsustainable', MSPs warn

Scotland's criminal justice system "cannot withstand another year of small incremental investment and a business-as-usual approach," MSPs warn.

A report out today warns the funding approach for the sector is "unsustainable".

The Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Criminal Justice Committee said the position facing the sector "cannot be allowed to continue" and raises serious concern about police and fire service staffing and the pressure on capital spending budgets.

"Critical" projects like the replacement of HMP Barlinnie, investment in decontamination facilities in fire stations and the roll out of body worn video cameras to police officers are all facing delays or uncertainty, it said.

The pre-budget scrutiny report states highlights the "increasingly precarious" financial position for those from across the sector who are dealing with a number of financial challenges, including high inflation and meeting pay awards.

It calls on the Scottish Government to adopt a "spend-to-save model".

Committee convener Audrey Nicoll said: "Year on year we are seeing the increasing pressure on services in the justice sector and the difficult decisions organisations are having to make in order to continue to deliver.

"We recognise the twin pressures of high inflation and pay awards, but it feels like we have reached a critical point and that increasingly there are fewer and fewer savings which can be made without a detrimental impact on services.

"Throughout our scrutiny it has become clear that the current model is unsustainable and that marginal increases in budgets each year are no longer sufficient.

"We're calling for a different approach and the implementation of a spend-to-save model which would bring increased investment into the criminal justice system and will ultimately save money.

"We need urgent reform of how this sector is funded to ensure its long-term viability, and which means services are propertly funded and the infrastructure behind them modernised to meet the demands of our society."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Almost £3.4bn is being invested across the justice system in 2023-24 to fund vital frontline services, provide continued support for victims and witnesses, and to tackle the causes of offending.

"This represents an increase of £165 million or a 5.8 per cent increase on the previous year's justice resource budget.

"The Deputy First Minister said this week that the UK Government's Autumn Statement delivered the 'worst case scenario' for Scotland's finances.

"Ministers are assessing the full implications of that statement as they develop a Budget that meets the needs of the people of Scotland, in line with our missions of equality, community and opportunity."

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