Small drop in police numbers but Scottish Government 1,000 extra officers pledge maintained
Police officer numbers have dropped by 60 since March 2016
Police officers - Image credit; Ninian Reid via Flickr
Police officer numbers have dropped by 60 since March 2016, according to the latest official figures published this week, although numbers unchanged in the last quarter from 31 December 2016.
However, there are still over a 1,000 more officers than in 2007, meeting a key Scottish Government pledge.
Scotland’s chief statistician publishes Police Officer Quarterly Strength statistics four times a year, which give the number of full-time equivalent police officers employed by Police Scotland at the end of the last quarter.
On 31 March 2017 there were 17,256 full-time equivalent police officers in Scotland, an increase of 1,022 officers, or 6.3 per cent, from 31 March 2007, but 60 fewer than the same time last year, a 0.4 per cent decrease.
The SNP dropped its commitment to maintaining 1,000 extra officers from its manifesto for last year's Scottish Parliament election, with Police Scotland in future allowed to decide how many officers it needs, something that is covered in the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland strategy Policing 2026, which is currently being consulted on.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “I am very pleased to see strength in police numbers being maintained in the latest quarter and I continue to expect to see the number of police officers remaining significantly above the number we inherited in 2007.
“I have also been clear about the need for Police Scotland to consider the right mix of skills across the workforce and not just overall numbers, to ensure Scotland keeps pace with the changing nature of crime and of society.
“The Scottish Government has committed to protect the police resource budget for each year of this parliament, and provided an enhanced £61 million reform budget for 2017-18.
“As those who prey on our communities seek to exploit new opportunities, and as the needs and vulnerabilities of our population change, so Police Scotland must embrace new approaches to keeping people safe.
“I look forward to seeing a final strategy at the end of the Policing 2026 consultation.”
However, Scottish Labour criticised Scottish Government funding of Police Scotland.
Scottish Labour justice spokesperson Claire Baker said: “Following the failure of the SNP to fully fund its promise of 1,000 extra officers, numbers are down and many are still having to backfill roles rather than being out on the beat.
“The SNP has also overseen a dramatic reduction in the number of vital support staff, leading to a police force with very little flexibility to react to the changing nature of crime in Scotland.
“We need a balanced work force with the support and resources it deserves, but instead we have an organisation desperately trying to balance the books.
“With a growing budget black hole at the heart of Police Scotland and a crisis of leadership at the top of the SPA, these difficulties sit at the door of the SNP.”
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