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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
03 October 2023
Police cuts: ‘People may die’, warns federation

Police officer figures are at the lowest since the formation of Police Scotland ten years ago | Alamy

Police cuts: ‘People may die’, warns federation

Police cuts could lead to members of the public dying, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has warned.  

David Kennedy told 1919 Magazine that reducing the number of officers able to respond to emergency calls could result in another incident like the M9 tragedy involving Lamara Bell and John Yuill in 2015. 

Bell died in hospital after a car crash on the motorway near Stirling. She and Yuill remained in the crashed vehicle for three days, despite the police being called. Yuill was pronounced dead at the scene. 

A fatal accident inquiry into the incident was opened in September. 

Police officer figures are at the lowest since the formation of Police Scotland ten years ago. Figures as of June 2023 show that there are 16,600 officers, a decrease of over 600 since 2013.  

Kennedy warned that a further 600 officers and 200 staff could be cut. And it was revealed last month that some minor crimes will no longer be investigated as part of a project being piloted in the north-east of Scotland to give officers more time to focus on responding to emergencies. 

He said: “All we can do is keep highlighting it and saying to the public that any notion that policing will remain the same and will remain as safe as it has been is just not going to happen.  

“People need to realise that, and government needs to realise that.  

“We might see more M9 cases appearing where people actually die because that’s the harsh reality if there are not enough police officers to get to calls that they are meant to attend.  

“People may die.”  

Kennedy added: “We are getting told that probationers are going out with probationers at the moment which is totally unacceptable. It’s happening all over the country. In the more urban areas, it’s probably happening more than often.”  

He continued: “It has a massive impact on cops because they just want to do their job and they will try their utmost to do their job but they’re at the point now where they’re so overstretched, they can’t do their job. We’ve tried to tell officers they need to try and do the job that they have to do but what happens when you try to take on too much, that’s when mistakes get made.  

“It’s bleak. If the Scottish Government properly funded the police service then it wouldn’t be bleak, but they are choosing not to.”  

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Police officers perform an essential role keeping Scotland’s communities safe which is why the Scottish Government is investing £1.45 billion in policing in 2023/24, despite difficult financial circumstances caused by UK Government austerity.  

“There are over 350 more officers than in 2007 and around 1,480 new recruits have joined Police Scotland in the last 18 months.  

“Scotland also continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales.”  

The spokesperson added that the government’s “sympathies remain with the families affected” by the M9 incident, but that it would be “inappropriate” to comment any further while a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the crash is currently taking place. 

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