Promoting safer communities is already an overarching priority for ACPOS. From my discussions, I am confident that it shares Scottish ministers' commitment to providing a strong and visible police presence in our communities.
I thank the minister for the "Scottish Policing Performance Framework" that she sent to members of the Justice 2 Committee this week. It outlines the expectations of the police services in Scotland, after consultation of the police forces and the authorities. Does she recognise that there is now a need for more community police officers, and for doubling in many areas the presence of dedicated community officers? Does she agree that the performance framework would be more robust if it included information about shift-by-shift deployment, drawn up in consultation with local police forces and chief constables, to ensure that communities receive police cover across shifts and that police officers are not pulled away? One of the biggest concerns of local communities is that community police officers are not policing their communities.
As I have said before to Jeremy Purvis, it is of course important that chief constables are responsible for deploying their staff appropriately. As I have also said before, some chief constables have decided that they do not want their community police officers to be abstracted for other duties and have given assurances on the protection of local communities' interests.
I am glad that Jeremy Purvis welcomes the new performance framework, which is a significant move forward that will allow us to benchmark and measure performance at the local level. I add that this is not simply about the need for more police officers or community police. Community wardens and some of the other initiatives that we have put in place as part of our general drive to create safer communities and tackle antisocial behaviour are also very important.
Will the minister acknowledge the valuable work that is performed by special constables in Scotland's policing? I hope that she will join me in welcoming the presence in the public gallery of a large number of special constables, although they have not been required to keep order this afternoon—
Inverness, which I represent, is the fastest-growing city in Europe, so does the minister accept that its growth means that it needs extra police officers? Is she aware that we are currently about 20 officers short of the complement that is required to keep order in Inverness?
I am delighted to welcome the special constables who are in the public gallery. They are here at my invitation to see the work of Parliament and so that I can thank them for the
In response to Fergus Ewing's question, I stress that decisions on deployment are for chief constables. However, we have increased the number of officers overall and we have put in place strategies to ensure that funding is available for recruitment to deal with the retirement bulge that will appear in the next couple of years. I have every confidence that the chief constable of the force that covers Mr Ewing's constituency will have plans in hand to deal with such matters.