Justice Secretary rejects claims Police Scotland will run out of cash for wages
Police Scotland will run out of cash to pay officers’ wages in February, the body that represents the force’s rank and file has warned.
Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf hit back at the claim by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), branding it “outrageous” and untrue.
Mr Yousaf, speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, said: “If police officers are not paid in February, I will not just eat my own hat, I will eat every conference delegate’s hat that is in this room. Because that just simply will not happen.”
But SPF general secretary Calum Steele insisted that policing in Scotland is “in a really precarious position”.
As well as raising fears that the force could run out of cash for wages within four months, he said Police Scotland could lose 1,000 officers next year.
Mr Steele, also speaking at a fringe event, said officers were driving around in “sooty diesels that are barely able to be kept on the road”, while some detectives do not have access to a police vehicle.
Police Scotland needs £300 million in capital funding to bring its police stations and estate up to legal standards, he added.
He also said some senior investigating officers have to deal with an ongoing case load of 100 rapes and sexual assault allegations.
The comments come after Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone wanted in August that the number of officers the force had was “not sustainable”.
Mr Steele said the chief constable had warned 750 officers could be cut, and added: “That is before the doubts over an additional 300 officers that are currently funded by local authorities comes into it.
“If local authorities withdraw their funding for those 300 officers, Scotland will lose 1,000 police officers next year, unless there is a change in funding.
“At this point in time the police service of Scotland is going to run out of money and not be able to pay wages in February. That is the reality of what is facing the police service.”
Mr Steele said that while Police Scotland is the second largest force in the UK – and covers the largest geographical area – it has the fifth smallest capital budget.
“The simple truth is we need round about £300 million in capital to bring our buildings and estate up to a legal standard,” he said.
“We are currently spending less than half the money we need each year to maintain our vehicles.
“You think of the debilitating impact of being a police officer turning up to work, and the building you’re working in is crumbling around you. You think of the demoralising effect of getting into a vehicle which is decrepit or falling apart.
“No point lauding green targets or reducing emissions if we’re running around in sooty diesels that are barely able to be kept on the road.
“We have senior investigating officers in some parts of our country that are managing case loads on an ongoing basis of round about 100 rapes and sexual assaults. That is a ridiculous case load for senior investigating officers to be carrying.
“We have detectives that don’t have access to cars, they don’t have access to the technological support they require.”
Mr Yousaf said he would “listen with an open mind” to requests from the police for additional capital funding, pointing out that Police Scotland received a 52% increase last year.
He stressed the SNP administration in Edinburgh had “purposely taken a very different direction to the Tory Government in Westminster of the last decade”, increasing officer numbers by more than 1,000 after it was first elected to power in 2007.
The Justice Secretary said: “Calum wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t pressuring the Government for more funding and more finance, and he has every right to do that.”
He also insisted he could not envisage Police Scotland having to reduce officer numbers by 750.
Mr Yousaf said numbers could not be reduced unless an increase in operational capacity could be demonstrated.
He insisted: “That has simply not been demonstrated, certainly not to the numbers suggested by Calum here today.
“I am very confident of this, certainly as far as I can see in the foreseeable future, there will not be a reduction of 750 officers. I do not envisage that happening.”