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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
21 May 2024
Police Scotland officers must remain ‘pacifists in the culture war’, says chief superintendent

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

Police Scotland officers must remain ‘pacifists in the culture war’, says chief superintendent

Police officers should remain “pacifists in the culture war” and should not be drawn into the “toxic” public debate around hate crime, the president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) will tell its annual conference this week. 

ASPS President Chief Superintendent Rob Hay will outline at the association's conference, which is in its centenary year, that while officers must play an important role in policing genuine hate crime, they must not be drawn into “petty point scoring” which is filling the public debate.  

He will voice his worries that there is an attempt to weaponise hate crime which is diverting already stretched police resources from people who genuinely require it.  

Hay will highlight the state of resources available to Police Scotland as the force experiences its lowest officer numbers in 16 years. He will set out how he believes the falling number of officers could affect the progress Scotland has made in curbing violent crime, highlighting that the Scottish Government’s previous promise of an additional 1,000 officers led to an unprecedented targeting of street gangs and a reduction in knife crime.  

He will say: “The divisive, political and toxic nature of some of the debate raging in wider society is not a place policing should ever inhabit. The flood of spurious complaints received upon the enactment of the new Hate Crime legislation is an example of the mischief-making we have seen, undertaken with spiteful glee and diverting police resources from those in actual need.   

“So let us be pacifists in the culture war, as we have no interest in investigating Humza Yousaf for describing some white people as being white; nor are we interested in arresting JK Rowling, no matter how much she tweets about it.”  

Hay will directly challenge the government and its vision for which direction they want Scottish society to travel in, highlight how the NHS has grown by almost 19 per cent in the last ten years, while policing numbers have fallen to pre-2009 levels.  

Hay will say: “The tale of how Scotland ‘beat’ knife crime is usually told through the lens of the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). Nobody would deny the pioneering nature of the work the VRU undertook and have championed to this day.  

“What is often forgotten, however, is 1,000 additional officers recruited into policing in 2007, all of whom went to frontline community policing. What is forgotten is the unprecedented targeting of active street gangs for proactive enforcement that went side-by-side with preventative interventions.  

“What is forgotten is that everyone caught in possession of a knife would appear in custody, where bail would be opposed if they had previous convictions for similar offences. The success achieved was done so by blending progressive, novel approaches with conventional, visible, proactive policing measures.”  

He will continue: “I reflect today on that progress, in the context of this month Scotland having the lowest police officer numbers in 16 years. The ‘1,000 extra officers’ are long gone. Policing is at the same time pulled in a thousand different directions by demand too often caused by gaps in other services. Let’s be clear: no gains we have made are guaranteed. There is no progress that cannot be lost.”

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