Scotland heading towards policing ‘catastrophe’ after hundreds more officers leave the force

6 February 2024, 13:02

Police numbers in Scotland are now at their lowest level since 2008
Police numbers in Scotland are now at their lowest level since 2008. Picture: Alamy

By Alan Zycinski

Scotland is heading towards a policing "catastrophe" after another 250 officers left its force without being replaced, LBC has been warned.

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Numbers are now at their lowest level since 2008 with hundreds more retiring or resigning between October and December 2023.

The Scottish Government's own publication calls the drop from 16,613 to 16,363  full time personnel a "significant" decrease. 

Officers weren't replaced because of a hiring freeze announced by Police Scotland in August last year.

David Kennedy from the Scottish Police Federation told LBC these latest statistics come as no surprise.

He said: "We knew this was going to happen. A recruitment freeze took place which meant numbers were dropping rapidly as officers left.

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"We've had a real concern that by April we could have less than 16,000 officers within Police Scotland.

"That absolutely could happen because there's the domino effect of officers (who are still there) getting so stressed and then saying 'you know what, we've had enough'.

"The knock-on effect is then catastrophic for Scotland. Members of the public then don't get a decent service.

"We have to stop, look at where we are and get it back to where we should be and make sure the frontline officers are what we prioritise for the people of Scotland."

Police Scotland bosses said "hard choices had to be taken to deliver effective policing within the funding available" when their recruitment freeze was announced.

But that was before the Scottish Government set out its latest budget proposals in December.

Ministers committed to investing £1.5billion in the force in the next financial year - increasing its "resource budget" by 5.6% and its "capital budget" by 12.5%,

Chief Constable's Jo Farrell said the revenue uplift "allows us to restart officer recruitment for the year ahead".

Police Scotland has been asked whether the recruitment freeze has officially ended. 

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