Police (Fife)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 27th March 2003.

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Photo of Keith Harding Keith Harding Conservative 2:30 pm, 27th March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive when it will next meet representatives of Fife police board. (S1O-6712)

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

The Executive is in contact with representatives of police authorities and joint police boards on a regular basis. However, no formal meetings are planned with representatives of the Fife police authority before the elections.

Photo of Keith Harding Keith Harding Conservative

The minister will be aware that the number of recorded crimes and offences in Fife has got much worse during the four years of this Administration. Can he explain why the Executive's justice policy is failing in Fife?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I do not accept the basis of Mr Harding's question. He will find that in Fife, as in other parts of Scotland, police numbers are at record levels. In Fife, there were 920 officers on 31 December 2002, compared with 835 in June 1999. By my reckoning, that is an increase of more than 10 per cent in the number of police officers over the parliamentary session.

We are also allowing more support staff to be engaged, which frees up officers for front-line duty. With regard to the funding that has gone into Fife, the level of grant-aided expenditure there will rise by more than the national average in each of the next three years. This year, there will be a rise of £44.4 million, which will rise to £57.8 million in 2005-06. Those are generous settlements by any stretch of the imagination, and they allow the chief constable of Fife constabulary to deploy additional officers to promote effective law and order policies in Fife.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

The minister may have noticed the newspaper reports concerning the recent violent and vicious attack on the Rev David Adams, minister of Trinity parish church, as he was garaging his car late one evening. It was a particularly nasty attack, as the assailants used a Stanley knife on the minister. I have expressed my concern to the chief constable of Fife constabulary about staffing—

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

I would be grateful if the minister would advise me whether he is aware that there are 400 fewer police officers in Fife than there are in Tayside, which has a population only 35,000 greater than Fife. I am very concerned about the level of policing in Fife.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I express my profound sympathies to that particular victim of crime. As I suspect that there may be outstanding legal issues and the matter may be sub judice, it would not be proper for me to make further comment. The Administration has a good record of putting victims of crime far more to the fore than has ever been the case previously.

On what Helen Eadie says on funding and on the number of police officers, I have indicated that the number has gone up. She will be aware that there has been a review of the GAE for all police authorities to take into account their levels of activity and arrive at a fair distribution of resources that takes account of changes. As a result of that, Fife will receive an increase greater than the national average over the next three years.