Brexit a ‘game-changer’ for police, warns Justice Secretary

Planning for Brexit has been a “game-changer” for Scotland’s police force as it prepares to recruit 120 more officers, the Justice Secretary has said.

Humza Yousaf told MSPs the draft would take place in this financial year “to ensure capacity and resilience is in place to prepare against a range of contingencies associated with Brexit”.

Mr Yousaf was questioned about budget plans at a meeting of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing at Holyrood on Thursday.

Labour’s Daniel Johnson asked about future spending deficits “given that the Scottish Police Authority overspent by £38 million in 2017-18”.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf

The Justice Secretary replied: “No-deal Brexit planning, and Brexit planning generally, has been a complete game-changer.

“Any reduction in police officer numbers, it’s my understanding, for the next financial year, or the first half of that financial year, will be halted.

“So therefore, potentially has the impact of having an impact on the deficit reduction plans.

“Until we know what kind of Brexit we are looking at, what kind of deal we’re looking at, clearly that’s going to have an impact on every single one of our public services, and Police Scotland is not immune to that.”

Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell asked whether the Scottish Government had looked at recruiting retired officers to bring in their expertise over the Brexit period.

Mr Yousaf said that would be a decision for the chief constable and Scottish Police Authority.

He said: “My understanding is that they are in a good position to bring forward the recruitment of those 120 officers.

“I don’t know whether they’re looking at retired officers. I don’t think that’s the case but I’d have to get further clarification.”

There were 17,147 full-time equivalent officers in Scotland at the end of September – the lowest level in almost a decade.

Police Scotland had previously announced it would slow recruitment between 2018 and 2020 amid a funding gap.

Responding to a question on whether Brexit could impact on any future recruitment, Mr Yousaf said: “Police Scotland have been doing a trawl of the staff and officers to determine how many EU citizens they have as part of Police Scotland.

“There’s no doubt from earlier work I have seen around our Brexit planning, that EU citizens make a great contribution to our police service, both in staff and in officer terms.”