I have 13 minutes to address a matter that is too grave and serious for anything other than a cold and blunt analysis. I hope that that will not be sidetracked by politicking this afternoon.
I have drafted a motion behind which I hope that we can all unite, because, as a Parliament, we have a common interest in ensuring that the police are able to carry out the difficult job that we ask of them and are prepared for the challenges that we ask them to take on—now and in the future, as technology develops, our understanding of issues such as mental health increases and the type of threats that we face as a society changes.
The simple proposition for which I seek acceptance is
The member asked for £50 million in the budget for policing. He might have seen that we have reached a deal with the Greens, which includes an extra £60 million for Police Scotland. I take it that he will now be able to stand up and say unequivocally that, yes, he will now support the Scottish budget.
I thank the cabinet secretary for that information. I was aware of it, because the answer to the Government initiated question came out 14 minutes ago. However, he cannot take that as a general acceptance of support for the budget, because, as the cabinet secretary knows, the budget is a lot bigger than just one issue. The important point that I will make this afternoon is that, when I talk about police underfunding, it is about much more than just £50 million for 750 officers. It is an important point that the cabinet secretary, wilfully or unintentionally, chooses to miss.
Let me make some progress, please.
The starting point must first be understood. Audit Scotland and the chief constable were clear that a significant uplift in funding was required just for the force to stand still—just to maintain the service that it currently provides.
Picking up their words, we said ahead of the budget that a minimum of £50 million was required, otherwise the consequences were clear: fewer officers, rising crime and the public at risk. Unfortunately, neither the revenue nor the capital settlements that the SNP provided in the original draft budget or is providing now meets that risk.
We could spend the next couple of hours arguing about why that funding was not initially provided, but that does not help anyone move forward. The motion craves a basic statement—that “Police Scotland is underfunded”—and therefore begs the solution, not a debate about how we got here.
The figures are so huge that it is imperative that we make them real for people. According to the Scottish Police Federation, the reality is that two thirds of the police estate is more than 40 years old; in fact, one third is more than 70 years old. The maintenance backlog is almost £300 million, and more than a quarter of the estate is graded as being in poor condition. What does that mean on the ground? We have all seen revelations in the media of mould, leaks and rat infestations in police buildings across the country and ceilings in Broughty Ferry police station collapsing. Members should not forget that, as one commentator pointed out at the weekend, that applies to the entirety of the stations, including—in his example—interview rooms for rape survivors and other victims of crime.
When our officers leave those buildings, they get into fleet vehicles whose average maintenance cost is up by 16 per cent, due to half the fleet operating beyond replacement criteria. In evidence, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents said that the fleet manager and his team were
“being asked to play a form of Jenga with marked response vehicles” as they juggled what was safe to drive.
Last week, at the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, I listened as the justice secretary talked about the budget apportioning £5 million to green the fleet. That is in the context of the federation saying that £30 million would be required just to get back to 2013 levels.
This is a funding environment that leads the chief constable to describe information technology capability as “poor”, due to underinvestment and the lack of funding that has led to the lack of a national network. He has also said:
“Younger officers ... live in a digital mobile world and they ... almost have to step back into an analogue world.”
That was made clear in deputy chief officer David Page’s submission on the draft budget, when he said that Police Scotland will not be able to roll out smartphones or body-worn cameras to all officers. He said:
“This equipment, which is basic equipment issued to officers in England and Wales, was one of the key recommendations made by Dame Elish Angiolini’s independent review into complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues.”
All of that is happening in a context in which demands on officers are rising. Because waiting lists for mental health services are at an all-time high, police officers often spend much of their time dealing with individuals who should be looked after by health services, but who have sadly fallen through the SNP-induced, increasingly large cracks in the system.
I recognise that—it is exactly the point that I am making. Waiting lists for mental health services are at an all-time high. The police are having to deal with that as a direct result of SNP underinvestment in services.
The police are also dealing with issues such as historic child abuse, human trafficking, terrorism, cybercrime, and, of course, drug problems. Scotland has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of rehab beds, leading to serious decline in support for problem drug users, which, in turn, leads to another demand on our police officers.
Operating in such conditions is unacceptable for any employee, so what must it be doing to the morale and wellbeing of our police officers? I will tell members. A survey that was done last summer reported that more than half of officers rarely or never had time for an uninterrupted break during working hours; two thirds said that the lack of resources to do the work was stressing them; and around half were stressed by being unable to provide the desired level of service to their community because of the lack of resources and heavy workloads.
Last September, Police Scotland’s chaplain wrote to the justice secretary to say that SNP underresourcing has left officers in his pastoral care “tired, frustrated and depressed”. He highlighted that public order officers had to wear protective clothing for days in a row even though it was soiled, and that some officers were soaked as they did not have time to collect waterproofs.
I leave the last word on the current position to the Scottish Police Federation, which said:
“The police officers we represent are working harder than ever. They are under strain and it is taking its toll on their physical and mental health and their families. Their working conditions are not satisfactory.”
That is the situation in which the budget was initially presented.
As I said, the budget underfunds the police. However, those are not my words. Many members will have been as shocked as I was that, in the past few weeks, a number of senior police officers have publicly criticised what they insist is a derisory funding settlement for Police Scotland. Deputy chief officer David Page said:
“the current capital allocation for policing is amongst the lowest in UK policing on a per capita basis, is low compared to other public bodies in Scotland and will undoubtedly inhibit our ability to keep up with the threat, harm and risk posed to the people of Scotland from increasing crime, increasing cyber/digital crime and the continuing sophistication of serious and organised crime.”
The Scottish Police Federation said that it
“considers the proposed police budget to be woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the police service and in turn the needs of the public.”
It went on to say that the proposed budget allocation will “impede operational effectiveness” and increase the risk to the public.
The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents said that the capital budget
“falls considerably short of the estimated £80 - 100m investment required, year-on-year, to address long-standing and embedded structural deficiencies across the business areas of Estates, ICT and Fleet.”
“the policing budget remains in deficit and ... this is unsustainable going forward”.
He also said that
“The anticipated capital allocation, while welcome, will not support the full scope of new investment required to achieve greater efficiencies and improved services.”
To my mind, the motion is made out, not by me or by any party in the chamber, but by the very officers who are being asked to work with the proposed funding settlement.
We can anticipate where the pushback will come from, although I would not have thought that it would prevent members from voting for the motion tonight. We will be asked, “Where will the money come from then?”, particularly given the finance secretary’s recent assurances that there is no money down the back of the sofa, although we have discovered that perhaps that is not the case.
Let me put that into context. This year, the overall block grant will grow by more than £1 billion in real terms—a 2 per cent real-terms increase. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has committed to a massive uplift in funding, leading to a £96 million Barnett consequential that is directly and inextricably linked to police funding in England and Wales. That is £96 million from the United Kingdom Government for the police. In choosing not to pass all of that on in the budget, the SNP is making a direct choice. The trade union Unison said in a submission:
“In previous budgets the Scottish Government has announced that all consequential they received from Health spending would go to Health. We strongly urge that the sub Committee press upon the Scottish Government the idea that any consequentials from Policing budget increases be spent on policing in Scotland”.
It is difficult to argue with that.
Two amendments to the motion have been lodged and accepted. We cannot vote for Labour’s amendment. Although we acknowledge that it accepts the motion’s fundamental principle that the budget underfunds Police Scotland—and we are grateful to Labour for accepting that—we cannot accept an amendment that seeks to apportion the blame for historic underfunding to Police Scotland. Furthermore, the idea that the UK Government is responsible for the Scottish Government’s funding decisions over devolved matters in the context of the Scottish budget being up in real terms from when the SNP came to power in 2007 simply does not stack up.
The cabinet secretary needs to accept that the Scottish budget is up in real terms from when the SNP came to power. As I have outlined, £1 billion is coming to Scotland, with £96 million in Barnett consequentials for the police. Unison has said clearly that that £96 million should be passed on. If the cabinet secretary is not going to do that, he needs to stand in the chamber and explain exactly why.
We will not vote for the SNP’s amendment. There is much in the first half of the amendment that we can unequivocally agree with. In particular, we welcome the cabinet secretary’s acknowledgement that
“the workforce requires capital investment” and take that as an acknowledgement that the current budget underfunds that requirement.
The inevitable reference to VAT that was paid as a result of the decisions that were taken by the SNP seven years ago is, as always, a diversion from the failures of this SNP Government. Every member in the chamber is aware that the SNP was warned that if it pressed ahead with the model that it proposed, VAT would not be reclaimable—but it did it anyway. Thanks to the hard work of Conservative MPs last year, VAT can now be reclaimed—which shows, of course, just how ineffective SNP MPs were and are.
In choosing to underfund Police Scotland in the budget, the SNP is undermining our police. It is the SNP’s choice not to fund improvements to police stations, to invest in police equipment or to maintain police numbers. It is the SNP’s choice to risk hindering the police’s ability to investigate crimes and to risk leaving the people of Scotland and police officers less safe, and it is the SNP’s choice to leave our officers and staff stressed, overworked and underresourced.
Given the evidence that I have presented, no reasonable parliamentarian can believe that the current draft budget represents an adequate funding settlement for our police. The Scottish Conservatives demand a different choice. We demand a police force that is funded and valued properly. I truly hope that the Parliament will unite behind my motion to send a signal that our police officers deserve better.
That the Parliament believes that Police Scotland is underfunded in the Scottish Government’s draft Budget 2020-21.
I am delighted to speak in the debate on police funding. I am pleased to say that, as a result of the on-going budget discussions that have been taking place since the initial publication of the draft budget, we have announced a deal with the Scottish Greens. I can announce that in that deal, we were able to allocate a further £13 million for Police Scotland’s resource budget and a further £5 million for its capital budget. Taken together, that means that there will be an uplift of £60 million for Police Scotland, which is more than £10 million more than the Conservative Party asked for for policing in Scotland. I am delighted that we have managed to work closely with our friends and partners in the Green Party—[
.] Conservatives are saying “Oh!”, but working constructively with the Greens means that we are putting £60 million extra into Scotland’s police service, which I am delighted about.
There is an increase of almost 30 per cent on the capital budget for the current year, and in the current year there was an increase of almost 52 per cent. I of course concede that there are capital pressures, and the uplift will help to address a number of them.
In recent weeks, there has been no shortage of opportunities to talk about policing in Parliament. That is recognition from members across the chamber of the importance of Police Scotland. Although I am sure that the debate will be robust and that we will have differences of opinion on the motion and amendments, I have no doubt that every member who speaks in the debate, including those on my left in the Conservative Party and those on my right in Labour, will accept that our police officers and staff do an incredible job, day in and day out, to keep Scotland safe.
I am delighted that I can speak about the significant gains in the budget for policing in Scotland. The total budget for policing in 2020-21 will now be more than £1.2 billion, which means that, since 2013, we have invested more than £9 billion in policing in Scotland. The figure for 2020-21 is more than £140 million higher than the figure in 2016-17, which was the first year of the current parliamentary session, when we committed to a real-terms protection of the policing budget. I am delighted that that commitment has now been exceeded. Remarkably, that has been achieved against a backdrop of a decade of austerity, led by the Conservative Government, which has cut Scotland’s discretionary resource budget for 2020-21, meaning that it will be around 2.8 per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2010.
I look forward to hearing, in the coming weeks, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer finally giving some clarity on next year’s funding for Scotland. As I said, we have already committed to providing an extra £60 million for Police Scotland in 2020-21, which of course is well over what the Conservative Party asked for earlier this year. That is why it is disappointing that, despite the fact that we have exceeded the Conservatives’ ask for policing, they still will not support the budget, which invests in our public services.
There will now be an increase of 5.1 per cent on the 2019-20 position, which will ensure that Police Scotland has the money that it requires to maintain officer numbers at current levels. That recognises the unprecedented events that Police Scotland will be dealing with in the coming financial year. The issues include planning for the still-very-real prospect of a no-deal Brexit, the need for significant policing resource in and around the 26th conference of the parties, or COP26, and potential action stemming from Covid-19, or coronavirus disease 2019. The increase in the resource budget will also mean that Police Scotland can enhance its community policing capability. That demonstrates that the Government values and listens to its key public sector partners.
I mentioned the further capital budget increase of 28.6 per cent on the current year. Over the past three years, the capital budget has more than doubled, from a baseline of £20 million in 2017-18 to £45 million in 2020-21. That will allow Police Scotland to accelerate its commitment to greening its fleet, and therefore contribute to the Scottish Government’s commitment to addressing the global climate emergency.
Members should not simply take my word for it. The Conservatives might like to pretend that we are underfunding the police, but senior members of the police, the Scottish Police Authority and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents are clear that that is not the case. Following the publication of the budget, the chief constable, Police Scotland’s deputy chief officer David Page and interim SPA chair David Crichton, among others, acknowledged that the settlement is greater than was expected. Those comments were of course made before ministers were able to confirm the additional uplift that I have highlighted today.
As I said, we have increased the capital budget by almost 30 per cent. From a baseline of £20 million in 2017-18, we now have a capital budget of £45 million, so it has more than doubled.
In an attempt to find some sort of consensus, I acknowledge that there continue to be capital pressures, just as there will always be capital pressures on a number of the services that we fund, and that the chief constable may well have to prioritise certain projects over others. However, the settlement is a good one for the chief constable and for the police service as a whole.
It would be remiss of me to talk about funding for policing without mentioning COP26, as it has come up in every meeting that I have had with the SPA, the chief constable and other Police Scotland officers in the past few months. COP26 will be a great event in Glasgow in November, but it will put huge pressure on our police service. The Scottish Police Authority has now provided estimated policing costs for consideration by the UK Government. The estimated costs will continue to be developed and validated, alongside independent scrutiny and financial assurance work.
I want to be absolutely clear that there is no precedent for COP26 anywhere in the UK. It is a vast undertaking that will put pressure on the resources that Police Scotland has at its disposal. Therefore, the Scottish ministers will continue to engage with the UK Government on our expectation that all costs arising from the decision to hold COP26 in Glasgow will be met by the UK Government. It would be good to hear from the Tories in one of their speeches that they agree that their UK Government colleagues must stump up every penny of the policing costs of COP26. Indeed, I am happy to take an intervention if Liam Kerr can confirm that it is his understanding that the Scottish Tories will stand up for policing in Scotland and demand that every penny of COP26 policing costs is met by their UK Government colleagues.
I am in my final minute, so I will come to one final point, which is that the UK Government must return the £125 million of VAT that it unfairly stole from Police Scotland. It was taken from the police in Scotland only and was not taken from any police forces elsewhere in the UK.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The cabinet secretary refers to money being stolen. The word “stolen” implies impropriety, dishonesty and criminal activity. Words have meaning—referring to the money as being stolen is a clear breach of the MSP code of conduct.
Will you ask the cabinet secretary to moderate his language, use accurate terms and deliver a speech in terms that are appropriate to his senior and responsible role?
That is not a point of order. What individuals say in the chamber is up to them, but there are means by which complaints can be made about that. I say to all members that they should be respectful and that there are times when their use of language should be considered. Perhaps the cabinet secretary would like to address that point.
I did not realise that Liam Kerr was such a sensitive soul when it comes to minding one’s language. If he is so sensitive about language, I would have thought that he would have pulled up his leader when he talked about backing the “boys in blue”, forgetting that there are 5,000 female police officers in Police Scotland. He might want to address that point.
I hope that the Scottish Parliament will back my motion, applaud the excellent work that is done by police officers and staff around Scotland to keep us safe, acknowledge the 5.1 per cent increase in the draft 2020-21 budget, support our calls to bring the VAT back to Scotland and help us to keep investing in Police Scotland to keep Scotland safe.
I move amendment S5M-20979.3, to leave out from “believes” to end and insert:
“values the hard work of police officers and staff in keeping local communities safe; welcomes the ongoing work by Police Scotland to develop a workforce strategy that will inform the workforce mix, including specialist staff and community police officers required to deliver the 10-year policing strategy, Serving a Changing Scotland; recognises that this workforce requires capital investment, including to green the police fleet and to deliver a transformed police service; further recognises the exceptional and unprecedented demands currently facing policing in Scotland, including planning for a no-deal EU exit and COP26; supports the return of the £125 million of VAT previously paid to the UK Government, and recognises that discussions on the draft Budget 2020-21 are ongoing.”
I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate, which the Scottish Conservative Party has brought to the chamber.
At the outset of my remarks, I pay tribute to our police officers and police staff, who work so diligently in communities around the country to keep the public safe.
The debate examines the serious matters of Police Scotland’s budget and its management of the challenging backdrop against which policing is having to be conducted. If we look at budget settlements over recent years and at the challenges that senior police people tell us that they face, it is clear that there are real issues with the Police Scotland budget.
First, we must recognise the circumstances in which police officers are having to work. Just before Christmas, a survey reported that a third of police officers had experienced mental health issues, and that two thirds had felt sick while they were at work. Those are serious matters that Parliament must consider. The Government must also take on board the fact that people are going to their workplaces and encountering such issues.
I believe that, over the years, budget settlements have undermined the atmosphere and the culture in which our police work. We have heard from the trade union Unison about how changes that stem from centralisation have resulted in altered work patterns. Some tasks that were previously carried out by police staff are now being allocated to officers. That can only weaken the presence of front-line policing, and that will not be welcomed by people in affected areas. At First Minister’s question time a couple of weeks ago, Colin Smyth gave the example of staff from the Dumfries area having been centralised to Glasgow to work in the surveillance unit.
If we examine crime rates, we see that they have been rising, in some respects. In the past four years, non-sexual violent crime has risen: for example, in 2018-19 it rose by 10 per cent. At the same time, the clear-up rate, which is 58 per cent, is at its lowest since 1979, which must be a matter of real concern.
Where the cabinet secretary’s defence of the budget falls down is most clearly demonstrated by examination of Police Scotland’s capital budget. Even with the change that has been announced this afternoon, it stands at £48 million. The police have clearly told us that £99 million would be required this year, which means that there is a shortfall of £56 million.
Presiding Officer, I put it to the cabinet secretary that he is responsible for the Police Scotland budget and for bringing to Parliament a budget that is £56 million less than Police Scotland tells us it requires.
To illustrate that, we need look no further than the police estate. We are told that a quarter of police stations are not fit for purpose. The cabinet secretary himself rubbished that suggestion when I raised it in Parliament last month. However, we have seen the reality on the ground, which is that mushrooms are growing in the Dunoon police office, there is a leaking roof in Paisley and there is dampness in Forfar. In the Broughty Ferry office, the roof has fallen in—thereby demolishing the cabinet secretary’s bluster.
Of the police’s fleet of cars, 2,400 need to be renewed. Police Scotland told us that £40 million is required for that, with £13 million being needed in the first year. The capital budget will not meet that. It is no wonder that—as Scottish Labour reported last year—one police car a week breaks down.
To the Tories, I make this point: it is the reality that, since 2010, the UK Tory Government’s budget choices have sought to shrink the public sector and its budget and, therefore, to shrink the settlement that is allocated to the Scottish budget. That has undermined Scottish budget settlements. The Tories should not lecture us about budget choices.
We have heard much bluster from the cabinet secretary, but the evidence on the ground is that police officers are working against a backdrop of massive challenges and that, in some areas, crime is on the rise. That is totally unacceptable. Furthermore, we have heard the cabinet secretary dismiss as “hyperbole” charges that have been put to him about the capital budget when, in fact, police stations are falling apart.
Those are serious matters, so I put it to the cabinet secretary that he should spend more time concentrating on the challenges that the police face and less time on his Twitter account. He should get on with the job of making sure that we get a budget settlement that, in total, makes the public safe and supports the police.
I move amendment S5M-20979.2, to insert at end:
“; considers it unacceptable that past budget decisions by Police Scotland have resulted in cuts to the number of officers in local policing divisions and redundancies for police staff, and notes the negative impact on Scottish budgets of UK Government austerity policies.”
I am delighted that the Scottish Green Party was able to come to an agreement with the Scottish Government that includes an additional £13 million in revenue and £5 million in capital to support modernisation of the police estate.
We lodged an amendment to the motion that was not selected for debate. It called for
“increased funding for community-based police officers”.
Quite rightly, the letter setting out the agreement that we have come to with the Scottish Government says that although decisions on deployment of the additional investment are, rightly, for the SPA and Police Scotland, the justice secretary will highlight to the SPA the need to refocus on community policing.
Last August, Gill Imery, who is Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary in Scotland, highlighted some of the challenges with the police estate. In particular, she said that
“In specific areas such as custody a lack of capital investment in the custody estate will impede efforts to deliver as efficient and effective a custody service as possible.”
I hope that some of the new money will go towards that.
We want an “effective and efficient” police service. I have to say that that is, largely, what we have. There is a lot of public support for the police, and it ill behoves colleagues to scaremonger about police safety. The reality of the situation is that the public have a lot of confidence in the police.
I understand why John Finnie wants to celebrate the £5 million additional capital funding. However, does he agree that that will go only a small way towards the £300 million investment that is required to bring the police’s information and communications technology up to 21st century standards?
The reality is that the budget round has been a bit of a wish list for Police Scotland. I am not criticising it for that. For example, on body-worn cameras, the position that was clearly laid out in 2017 to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing was that all the necessary impact assessments would be undertaken to ensure compatibility with existing ICT infrastructure before those pieces of equipment ever went beyond a trial. The reality is, of course, that Dame Elish Angiolini has suggested that they be rolled out nationally.
I will talk now about officer numbers—in particular, about the roles of police officers and police support staff, who make a significant contribution to the good work that Police Scotland does. One of the challenges is that we are all fixated on numbers. There is a commitment to having 17,234 officers. I asked the cabinet secretary’s predecessor, Mr Matheson, whether he had a view on that, and he said that he did not. We should be looking at the contribution of the 17,234 officers, because everyone accepts that the nature of crime has altered. We are living in the digital age, so the question might be whether we want one police officer with the necessary powers or two digital experts. It might be that we want both. There are challenges.
We talk about the difficult discussions that take place about money, but difficult discussions about the future lie ahead, because police officers cannot be made redundant, whereas police support staff can. That has brought about the ridiculous situation in which well-remunerated officers with police powers have been doing jobs to which they should not have been deployed and for which they are not necessarily equipped.
I associate myself with James Kelly’s remarks about the decade of austerity. I might not have used the phrase that he used, but he outlined the background against which the budget process has taken place.
The challenges that we hear about in delivery of a modern police service include mental health and the role of the Scottish Ambulance Service. Do those things show that we need a fundamental review of how public services work together? I suspect that my former police colleagues are not necessarily making the case that the moneys should, rather than going to Police Scotland, go to the health service or the Scottish Ambulance Service, but there are many challenges there.
I make no apology for highlighting in the chamber for the umpteenth time an area of significant growth within Police Scotland—the growth in chief-officer rank numbers. The idea was to have rationalisation and to move from having more than 20 chief officers—the vast majority of whom were chauffeur driven—to having an appropriate number. Ironically, the situation disadvantages the superintendents’ associations, which are pivotal. They are the divisional officers. However—ironically, again—they will perhaps be happy about the promotion opportunities that have been afforded them.
I am pleased that the Government’s amendment mentions community officers, who represent everything that is positive about the service. They provide a uniformed presence on the street, which reassures people.
Hand-held devices have also been talked about in relation to capital. It is wholly appropriate that operational officers have them, although it is not necessarily the case that every officer should have one.
We also need to encourage the triage system that is applied with mental health services. The figures on police hours that have been saved as a result of that are important.
There are many challenges ahead, due not least to Brexit. The European arrest warrant, judicial co-operation and the real-time criminal intelligence that we get all affect how the police operate. There are also challenges to do with COP26 and how it will be dealt with. I will not labour the VAT issue, but we cannot ignore it, either.
I will leave it there.
I, too, welcome this important debate and thank Liam Kerr for allowing Parliament an opportunity to consider at least some of the profound challenges that our police service faces.
As members know, Liberal Democrats consistently opposed the centralisation of policing in Scotland, but it is worth recalling that the main reason that SNP ministers gave for going down that route was the need to deliver savings in order to protect policing budgets. Eight years on, no one could deny that Police Scotland has delivered on its end of the bargain. Cuts have certainly been made, including the loss of 1,700 of the civilian staff who play a vital role, as John Finnie acknowledged, with many of those posts now being filled by officers.
Despite those cuts, Police Scotland remains in a dire financial position. That is not just what the Government’s political opponents are saying; it is what Audit Scotland is saying and has been saying year after year; it is the strong message from the Scottish Police Federation, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents and even—belatedly—the Scottish Police Authority; and it was the unambiguous message from Chief Constable lain Livingstone, who recently described the funding levels that are available to Police Scotland as “derisory”.
It is worth taking a moment to let the significance of that sink in. This is the time of year when those who are in receipt of public funding seek to make a case for increased resources—and resources have, indeed, been increased, as the cabinet secretary announced. However, for the chief constable to reach a point where he feels that he has no alternative but to declare very publicly to the SPA and, by extension, to the justice secretary that the funding that Scottish policing receives is “derisory”, is astonishing. It is also unprecedented.
When we look at the figures, we can see why lain Livingstone, the federation and others have reached the conclusion that they have reached. On capital, Police Scotland and the SPA told the J ustice Sub-Committee on Policing that the requirement last year was £99.3 million, which was more than twice the £43 million that was allocated. Although the funding is up by £5 million this year, with a further £5 million announced earlier today, it still falls well short of what is required. As the Scottish Police Federation has pointed out, Police Scotland enjoys the lowest capital allocation of almost any force in the UK, per capita.
On revenue too, the shortfall is significant. Despite a proposed increase for the coming year, the federation estimates that the starting point is a deficit of £42 million in 2019-20. Audit Scotland also recently concluded that the force needs an additional £50 million over the next two years to avoid cutting officer numbers.
Those are large sums, but what do they mean in practice? On the capital side, they mean that officers and staff have to cope with an IT infrastructure that has been described by the federation as “decrepit”. As the SPA stated:
“many of the IT systems are out of date, not joined up and cannot be upgraded”.
In addition to the impact that that has on officers and staff and their ability to carry out their roles, it also prevents Police Scotland from delivering the efficiencies that have been demanded by Government. That is simply not a sustainable position.
Things are little better when it comes to the police estate. Last year, the federation shone a light on “unsafe working conditions” across the country: rat infestations, crumbling plasterwork, dangerous electrics and even examples of officers having salvaged chairs from skips because they were in a better state than the ones that they already had. When confronted with those concerns, the justice secretary inexplicably dismissed them as “hyperbole” shortly before the ceiling collapsed in his local police station in Broughty Ferry.
On the fleet, although additional investment is welcome, it is not clear whether the £5 million that has been earmarked for greening the fleet comes close to meeting the need.
The human side to the underfunding is perhaps most alarming of all. We know that officers and staff are under more pressure than ever. Brexit is already placing an additional strain on resources, while COP26 in Glasgow later this year will have a profound impact on Police Scotland’s ability to manage its range of responsibilities.
Will there be an acknowledgement in any of this speech of Labour’s amendment, which talks about a decade of austerity? Does Liam McArthur recognise the part that Liberal Democrats played not just in austerity but in Danny Alexander being the chancellor who would not give back the £125 million of VAT?
The minister has belaboured the point on VAT. As I said to him in the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, if we are to go down the route of suggesting that, once a principle is accepted, there is a retrospective repaying of funding, I look forward to Orkney and Shetland receiving 10 years’ worth of retrospective funding for the road equivalent tariff.
We know that officers are under severe pressure. Meanwhile, the police have had to become the emergency service of last resort, particularly when dealing with individuals who can be struggling with a wide variety of mental health issues. At the same time, we now know, from recent expert research, the scale of the mental health issues that officers and staff themselves face. Almost half of officers suffer from exhaustion; a third reported going to work while mentally unwell; one in five officers reported high levels of depressed mood; and one in 10 reported drinking alcohol and/or taking prescription drugs as a coping mechanism. Only 3 per cent of officers agreed that Police Scotland cared about their wellbeing.
In response, the justice secretary said that he was
“very satisfied the support structures are in place for those officers for their mental wellbeing to be addressed.”
That prompted Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation to say that
“it is difficult to understand the basis upon which Mr Yousaf was able to derive that satisfaction”,
which is not shared by officers. Mr Steele also stated that replacing dedicated welfare officers with contracted-out services had been a “poor substitute”, which my colleague Willie Rennie raised with the First Minister recently.
“the hard work of police officers and staff in keeping local communities safe”.
We do not live up to that aspiration by providing the police with what the chief constable has described as a “derisory” level of funding.
Scottish Liberal Democrats will support the motion.
That concludes the opening speeches, and we move to the open debate. The opening speeches ate into some extra time, so members should please be mindful that speeches should be six minutes long.
There are more than 1,000 additional officers in Scotland, but the Tories have cut 20,000 officers in England and Wales. Police officers in Scotland have received a 6.5 per cent pay increase, but in England and Wales they have had an increase of 2.5 per cent. There are 317 police officers per 100,000 people in Scotland, compared with 209 per 100,000 people in England and Wales. The police spend on public order and safety is £478 per person in Scotland; in England and Wales, the spend is £420. I outline those things not to demonstrate some sort of bizarre competition but to highlight the facts that put the Tory motion in perspective.
The member has chosen her data rather selectively. Police Scotland is the second-largest force in the UK, but it is the fifth-worst funded. Since 2013, Scottish policing has faced a cut of 22 per cent, which is more than in England and Wales, where policing has faced a cut of 20 per cent. Police Scotland is able to spend £9 per square metre on estate, whereas the UK average spend is £46 per square metre. What is her answer to that?
I am sorry, but the member spoke at such a rate that I could hardly take in what he said, to be honest. The facts that I read out are facts, and he cannot deny that.
In reality, as the cabinet secretary outlined, an additional £13 million in resource spending and £5 million in capital spending have been committed to support our police service and enhance community policing. That takes next year’s total uplift to £60 million despite the fact that the UK Tory Government owes Scotland’s emergency services £125 million in VAT repayments, which is needlessly depriving our police of extra resources. [
.] Tory members can groan if they like, but that is another fact, and there is radio silence from Westminster on that so far.
Despite a decade of austerity and the UK Government’s disrespect and failure to provide clarity on funding for Scotland next year, the Scottish Government has committed to providing an extra £60 million for Police Scotland’s annual budget. That represents a rise to more than £1.2 billion for the police.
Last weekend, the
Mail on Sunday ran a sensationalist, over-the-top piece that was written by Liam Kerr. The newspaper was happy to publish such a piece, as it is entirely in line with its political persuasion. I am aware that the ridiculous headline for Liam Kerr’s piece, which read
“Police farce! The SNP has abandoned our boys in blue”,
was not written by him, but it was retweeted and quoted by the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw. What century are we in? Is Jackson Carlaw even aware that the divisional commander for the Greater Glasgow division, which takes in his Eastwood constituency, is Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren? She is not a boy in blue, and nor is my amazing area commander in East Dunbartonshire, Lorna Gibson. There are around 5,000 women officers in Scotland, and it is more than a century since the first woman was added to the police establishment, in September 1915. It is time to stop perpetuating sexist stereotypes—the fact that the Tories seem happy to do that shows just how out of touch they are with reality. Stories like that undermine public confidence in the police and do our hard-working officers a great disservice.
To say that policing is in crisis and that the SNP has abandoned Police Scotland is utter nonsense. It really is the height of hypocrisy to suggest that. Although the Conservatives claim that the Scottish Government is underfunding the police, some senior members of Police Scotland, the SPA and the ASPS are clear that that is not the case. Chief Constable lain Livingstone said:
“I have made our financial situation clear in recent weeks and I welcome the package announced by the Scottish Government. The creation of a single national service has enabled responsive and visible local policing to be maintained and transformed how we deal with serious crime and major incidents.”
David Crichton, who is the vice-chair of the SPA, stated in a paper to the SPA board:
“I do want to acknowledge a settlement that is better than might have been expected”.
In his submission to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, David Page stated:
“The draft funding settlement for policing in 2020/21 includes an uplift of revenue funding ... This is something that we welcome.”
Of course, there are pressures on the police and it is entirely acceptable for the Scottish Police Federation to ask for more money. That is normal and expected, as it represents its members’ best interests and there are challenges ahead.
However, policing in Scotland is currently facing exceptional and unprecedented demands, including European Union exit—which is not a situation of our making—COP26 and Covid-19. The resources for those demands are firmly the UK Government’s responsibility.
Every day, our police face more diverse challenges. They are often the first responders to people who have mental health issues, and they face the increasing challenges of cybercrime and the rising rate of sexual crime, among many others. I know that all members agree that the police do a fantastic job. Working alongside partners, Police Scotland has reduced crime by around 42 per cent over the past decade, which includes a significant reduction in violent crime.
I hope that all members can come together to recognise the great work that Police Scotland does. The police know that they will always have the backing of the Scottish Government and that, whatever challenges they face—financial or otherwise—we are committed to working with them to alleviate the pressures.
I am grateful for the work of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing. The sub-committee’s report highlights gaps in the current budget that must be addressed.
Scotland’s police force relies on consistent and sustainable funding if it is to operate as effectively as possible, with the utmost efficiency. I am sure that all members can agree on that. However, the current allocated capital budget for Police Scotland, which is intended to cover the police estate, IT and the fleet, does not go far enough. That view is not held by our party alone—far from it. Senior figures from various police branches across Scotland think that that is the case and have made their voices heard, strongly. For instance, the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing heard from representatives of the Scottish Police Federation, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents and the Scottish Police Authority. Surely, those representatives’ concerns, which reflect their insight and perspective, need to be taken seriously and addressed.
Underfunding our police force underserves our police officers and, in turn, the public. Local police officers deserve the absolute confidence of the communities that they serve. What appearance do sub-par police stations, ageing vehicles and outdated IT systems present to the public? If there is not appropriate funding to address such issues in full, the reputation of our police service is at stake, despite our officers’ best efforts in their day-to-day work.
The burdens of operating in continually underfunded circumstances can—understandably—place a great deal of strain on our police force. Many officers consistently work above and beyond what is expected of them in challenging situations, often without the resources that they need. That can have a knock-on effect on officers’ mental health, which is particularly worrying when we know that they come up against and devote time to the challenges of drug abuse, violent crime and terrorism. The frustrations that officers feel are symptoms of what Calum Steele, from the Scottish Police Federation, described as the “chronic underfunding” that Police Scotland is experiencing.
Knowing that, we cannot accept a budget that does not give officers the resources that they need to keep our communities and the public safe.
We said that that was a minimum—[
.] It was a minimum. This has been going on too long, and that was a minimum for now, to get us through.
Police Scotland is in desperate need of modernisation, not least in terms of its IT capabilities. Our police force has long required an extensive IT upgrade that moves the force on from outdated and backward processes. Such an upgrade is necessary for a number of reasons. The advances of cybercrime, for instance, require our police force to be equipped to meet modern-day challenges with a digital approach that the current system lacks.
Moreover, as Deputy Chief Officer David Page said to the sub-committee, there is a need for body-worn cameras and smartphones for police officers. Such an approach is long overdue. Officers in England and Wales benefit from such equipment as standard issue, which shows the need for Police Scotland to keep pace. The Scottish Government must equip Police Scotland in that regard. Such measures provide a vital layer of safety for officers, so it is a serious concern that the allocated budget does not reflect their provision. Linked with that, investment in body-worn video is much needed. Video would be an asset in the investigation of any complaints of misconduct. Overall, such upgrades are not mere add-ons to the work of Police Scotland and its officers; they are integral to safeguarding the police and the public whom they serve.
The limited budget threatens to overlook the maintenance of the police estate. If a quarter of police buildings are in poor condition, as the SPF has stated, that will not improve perceptions of Police Scotland as it seeks to modernise and innovate as a national service. We must think carefully about the impression that that will give to vulnerable victims as they enter police stations that are in worsening condition, not to mention the effect on staff and officers who work there every day.
On improving the fleet of vehicles, the capital budget yet again has significant underinvestment. The sub-committee heard evidence that £13 million would be needed in the first year to upgrade the fleet as required, yet only £5 million has been allocated to that, which raises serious concerns over how efficient and far-reaching that investment can be in maintaining police vehicles. According to the SPF, that shortfall will increase replacement costs in years to come. With reports of regular breakdowns and police officers having to drive deteriorating and ageing vehicles on duty, marked response vehicles clearly need a sustainable improvement in funding and not temporary short-lived fixes.
The current budget allocation hinders Police Scotland from achieving the full transformation that its officers and support staff desire and need. Police Scotland is, of course, required to prioritise how it will use its budget, especially when it comes to the welfare, health and safety of police officers. However, that should not be at the expense of wider structural investment that will see key improvements made. Scotland’s police force requires much more funding than just enough to get by for the meantime. It needs transformative and embedded change to increase its efficiency, creating true value for a service that prioritises safety.
Here we are again with another brass-necked Tory motion on the subject of justice. It is brass-necked because there is no mention of Tory austerity, which is driving the overall reduction in our budget. As with every other issue that we debate in the chamber, austerity is simply brushed aside—it does not affect the Tories, so why talk about it? Austerity affects our communities in two ways with regard to policing—through the budget that we can give to policing and through the devastation that austerity causes in communities across Scotland. It is impactful and it should have been included in the Tory motion if they want to be taken seriously.
Not just now; I want to make progress.
The motion is brass-necked because it makes no mention of the £125 million of VAT that is owed to our police force; not once has any of the Tories here fought for that. What are you going to say about that in your summing up? Should we get that money back or should it be kept by Westminster? I would like to hear your view on that; I am interested to know.
The motion is also brass-necked because it makes no mention of the fact that our police service is much better resourced and protected than the service in England, where your party is in power.
I am sorry, Presiding Officer.
As the cabinet secretary said, there is no mention of external factors such as Brexit or COP26; I am delighted to say that we will have an evidence session on the latter of those two at the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing.
Finally, the motion is brass-necked because the Tories know that budget discussions have been on-going, yet there is no indication of what they would cut. However, there is no need for that because the mature parties in the Parliament have stood up to the plate. It is great news that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance has been able to announce a deal with the Greens today. I heard members on the Tory benches laughing when that was mentioned earlier. I have no idea why they were laughing about the fact that we are about to pass the budget; perhaps they can answer that as well.
No; I want to make progress.
Having said all that, I thank the Tories for continuing to make the case for independence with every motion that they lodge. Just imagine what we could do with our resources if we were not reliant on the UK Government deciding when and how much of our money we can spend. As I said, it is no surprise that the independence parties have stood up to the plate.
A very good deal was put forward in the budget and it was increased today. Liam Kerr came to the chamber with a pre-prepared speech—he admitted that he got that information 14 minutes before he spoke. He has no answer to the fact that there is £10 million more in the budget than the Tories asked for as a minimum. They keep saying that that is a minimum. I hope that Mr Kerr and his party will support the budget.
Despite the austerity that has been imposed on us, which has led to our resource budget from the UK Government for 2020-21 being around 2.8 per cent lower than it was in 2010, policing services in Scotland have been maintained and improved.
As Rona Mackay rightly said, there has been an increase of 1,025 police officers from the position that was inherited in 2007. That contrasts with cuts of up to 20,000 officers in England and Wales. Even in a scenario in which forces in England and Wales replace the officers who have been cut, there would be around 24 officers per 10,000 of population, which is still well below the rate in Scotland of 32 officers per 10,000 of population.
Our commitment is supported by the decision of the Government in the draft budget to invest £60 million in Police Scotland’s annual budget. More than £9 billion has been invested in policing since 2013, and Police Scotland’s budget has been increased in every one of the past five years, which clearly shows the Scottish Government’s position on the matter.
The Conservatives may like to make out that the Scottish Government underfunds the police, but as others have said, that does not reflect the facts.
No, I do not have time. My apologies, Mr Kelly.
The fact is that Police Scotland’s capital budget has been more than doubled between 2016-17 and 2020-21. As other members have said, it includes, for example, £5 million of extra funding to allow Police Scotland to accelerate its commitment to greening its fleet, and a further £37 million uplift to the Scottish Police Authority resource budget, which exceeds by £12 million the Scottish Government target.
The record of Police Scotland even in austerity is an impressive one, and I am glad that Liam McArthur made that point. The force has helped to reduce crime by around 42 per cent over the past decade, which includes significant reductions in violent crime. Over the past 10 years, crime has been on a downward trend in Scotland, having decreased by 27 per cent since 2009-10.
It is important that we always pay tribute to the police officers—the men and woman—who do the job day in, day out. It is easy for us to stand here and argue the case one way or another, but as a local MSP, I am always impressed by their amazing work. Just last week, two local community officers covering Coatbridge north popped into my office and told me about an exciting new project that they are running with local young people at primary schools: early intervention in action and positive policing in the community.
The Conservative motion is completely misleading as it leaves out any context. I am not saying that it is all rosy, and neither is the cabinet secretary. I am sure that the cabinet secretary would like to give more to policing—even more than what has been agreed today. However, while we are tied to austerity, I think that we are doing a pretty good job of protecting the police budget, driving down crime and keeping our streets safer. That is thanks to the hard work and dedication of our men and women in blue.
I am happy to participate in the debate and recognise the key role of the police in keeping our communities safe and secure.
I will make a couple of general points about the budget process before commenting specifically on the underfunding of Police Scotland. The budget is always a difficult process, which this year has been compounded in part by the delays and uncertainty that have been created by the Tory Government. Although it is difficult for us, it is a great deal more troubling for local groups and organisations that cannot plan for the future and whose staff face potential redundancy.
With regard to the deal that has been done, why was the money not in the budget already? We really deserve better than a bit of parliamentary choreography, whereby money is held back, there is a bit of discussion and the money is found. We need something more mature, rational and logical than that.
There have been significant criticisms of the Scottish budget by experts, including the Fraser of Allander institute and Professor Graeme Roy, who commented that the budget
“doesn’t answer the questions the public, and MSPs, are most likely to ask: what difference will it make, and does it actually follow the priorities being set?”
Given the opaqueness and lack of transparency, it is important to understand the role of MSPs in cutting through it. A key way of doing so is for MSPs to give a voice to those who are on the front line—those who are living with the consequences of budget decisions that are made here. That is why the debate on police budgeting matters, and although the justice secretary may not wish to listen to MSPs, it is not good enough to dismiss that direct evidence. Scottish police officers, staff and unions are saying that there is a serious problem here. It is simply an abdication of responsibility to shrug a ministerial shoulder and say, “If you don’t like it, lump it, or you go sort it.” Perhaps the justice secretary should be asking more questions of the finance secretary about the inadequate capital allocation that he has been given.
It must be the job of Government to be explicit in its priorities, to listen when there are serious concerns, to interrogate the consequences of its spending choices and then to be prepared to change.
I am grateful to Johann Lamont for giving way. Perhaps she will be able to answer the question that James Kelly was unable to answer. From where in the justice capital budget would she get additional money for policing? Should we not build Barlinnie prison? Should we not build the female custodial estate? Those are the choices. I am delighted with the additional 30 per cent uplift in police capital budgets.
He did not listen to my point. I would not be starting from this position, but I would also want an army of civil servants to help me solve the problem. I would be going to the finance secretary and asking why that allocation is so inadequate.
It is not good enough to look at the consequences of the Government’s choices and then respond to the issues that people direct through them. We know that, because of the active choices of the Scottish Government, Police Scotland is underfunded and local authorities are being forced to make yet more serious and damaging cuts to local services and to increase, again, local charges and taxes.
That reveals clear evidence of the absence of joined-up thinking in relation to the budget, and that has a direct impact on the security of local communities. For example, in Glasgow, there have had to be real cuts to community safety funding. Locally important initiatives, such as the hot spot intervention team, have been discontinued. An approach that sought to divert young people in identified hot spots for antisocial behaviour is to end, at the same time that recorded crimes by 8 to 15-year-olds in Glasgow have increased. That makes no sense at all. When that is coupled with cuts to criminal justice social work, for example, we see how it leads to increased pressure on the police to deal with problem behaviour at a time when police budgets are already inadequate.
This is not a parliamentary game, where you put people behind the eight-ball and ask them what they would do. There are real-life consequences to the choices that the Scottish Government is making. It is not good enough to celebrate some headline initiatives; the Government needs to do the heavy lifting. If the police are telling you that the money is derisory and they are incapable of doing their job, it is your obligation to listen and to make decisions that are driven by evidence and need.
Police Scotland is underfunded. So is local government. Those who are paying the price are local people whose rights to peace and security are not being met. I urge the Scottish Government and the cabinet secretary to do their job.
The Tories started the debate by saying that matters were “too grave and serious” for cheap “politicking”, yet recent tweets and articles in the Daily Mail have done just that.
What we have is a one-line motion from the Tory boys in blue, to coin a phrase, that encapsulates neither the successes nor the challenges of modern-day policing in Scotland. Nor does it reflect the facts, because despite the fact that our discretionary budget from the UK Government is around 2.8 per cent lower in real terms than it was a decade ago—which equates to an £800 million cut—the Scottish Government is proposing an extra £60 million for Police Scotland. That is a massive increase. It equates to a £50 million uplift for the SPA resource budget, which more than exceeds the Scottish Government’s commitment to protect the police budget in real terms.
The challenge for the Conservative Opposition—although they now support the budget—is that they asked for an additional £50 million for the police, and the Government is delivering an additional £60 million.
No, I will not, Mr Kerr, because you had 13 minutes and I have only six—but
I am about to be even-handed. The challenge for the Government is that, because it is delivering that very welcome increase, it will be pressured in future years to either maintain or increase the new baseline figures.
Since the Government was re-elected in 2016, we have seen a continuing trend in increasing funding for both resource and capital. I more than accept that Opposition parties and, indeed, stakeholders and community voices are entitled to make a case for more money for policing, but some people are, of course, more successful in making that case than others. It is a shame that some of those voices could not simultaneously join the Scottish Government and demand that Her Majesty’s Treasury pay back the £125 million that it owes us, given that we had to pay a VAT bill when south of the border did not. So much for a partnership of equals.
It is a fact that we continue to have a higher number of police officers than there were at any time during the previous Administration. I am pleased to say that that includes 5,000 female police officers. During my time as the constituency MSP for Almond Valley, there have been at least three female divisional commanders for West Lothian. I accept that there is more to do to create a truly diverse police force that reflects the community that it seeks to serve, but we need to recognise and celebrate the fact that the police force has changed a lot since the days when women officers were issued handbags and skirts as part of their uniforms.
I know that the Tories do not like comparisons with England—I am not surprised by that—but there is a bigger and better comparison. Scotland is above the European Union average, with 322 police officers per 100,000 of the population. That compares with around 212 police officers per 100,000 of the population in England and Wales.
It is imperative that we really understand the experience at the local level and scratch beneath national statistics and headline figures for a richer debate—that is, of course, lacking in the Tory motion. For example, I fully recognise and welcome the national figures that demonstrate that crime is at its lowest level since 1974 and that the number of adults who experience a crime has fallen from one in five to one in eight since 2008-9. However, in West Lothian more recently, there has been an 8 per cent increase in recorded crime, some of which has been driven by an increase in sexual offences.
I know that, with the formation of Police Scotland, we have seen the introduction of more specialist support, such as the historical cases unit, which is very important in encouraging the reporting of past and present crimes. We know that the police service does not operate in isolation, so the increased funding for victim support, criminal justice social work and the equally safe strategy is very welcome. Good partnership working is imperative.
Historically, the local council in my area used to fund additional community police officers, as it recognised the importance of that in prevention. It is deeply regrettable that it backtracked on that commitment. I do not demur from the fact that the public pound is precious across the public sector, but the years of austerity have resulted in short-sighted decisions, and the council has now returned to supporting community officers engaging with schools. That must be welcomed, of course.
We must remain resolute in our commitment to community policing, and we must have the courage to make long-term commitments. That is why I am keen to know more from the cabinet secretary about how the additional funding for policing that he has secured in the budget will help to protect and value community policing. That is particularly important, with policing being increasingly focused on addressing vulnerability and the consequences of inequality. The Tories did not mention that in their one-line motion, of course.
I had a really positive experience recently when I reported concerns, as a citizen and not as an MSP, about a vulnerable elderly gentlemen whom I had a chance encounter with. I place on record my thanks to the community police officer involved.
The upholding of justice and the rule of law is one of the great challenges for Government in Scotland today. That is so in spite of continued ramped-up and repeated rhetoric about the supposed respect for human rights, which is increasingly nowhere to be seen, save in the self-promoting language of the SNP Government.
The Scottish Conservatives have consistently called on the Government to guarantee greater revenue funding for the police, which would allow Police Scotland to continue providing an already overstretched and struggling service; £50 million would safeguard 750 police officers, making sure that Scots can walk the streets in safety. During this parliamentary session, my party colleagues successfully lobbied the UK Government for the refund to the police and fire services of £35 million of VAT payments.
It is well-trodden ground that, under the SNP, the police have faced severe real-terms cuts to their capital budget, which is one of the smallest per capita in the UK, with inadequate increases in revenue funding since the SNP came to power 13 years ago—this is not just about a short fix 14 minutes ago. Yet, due to increases in police spending south of the border, the Scottish Government will receive an extra £96 million in Barnett consequentials this year alone. Sadly, this SNP Government does not plan to hand much of that to Police Scotland but plans rather to use it to plug its profligate spending in other areas.
It is not. That is the problem. The money is going to other things—not to those areas that it should be going to.
We see the consequences of that flawed approach in Edinburgh. The SNP-Labour council administration has just waved through the ending of its £2.6 million contribution to policing this city, driven largely by its savings cuts of £88 million for the next three years. It is politically opportunistic to suggest that the reason for those cuts is anything other than the SNP Government’s cuts to council funding in real terms. If the SNP Government will fund neither the nationalised police force nor the councils that might assist, who will? Considering Westminster’s increase and projected continuing increases in the Scottish budget, that is indefensible. The loss of that funding means 50 fewer community police officers in Edinburgh, which cuts police visibility in our communities. I know those community officers because I see them at the local community council meetings, where they come to assist the local communities.
The trade union Unison has publicly called for a commitment from the Government to protect and fully pass on the policing consequentials to the police service. Why not? That is the question, and it demands an answer here today.
Structural funding issues will halt modernisation of the force, leaving us lagging behind when it comes to new types of crime, such as cybercrime, and other types of organised crime. Our police force has been left behind when it comes to the most basic infrastructural problems, which we have already heard about.
No, sorry—not at this point.
There is a £300 million maintenance backlog across the police estate. The money that has been found today will not cover that. Last Monday, Deputy Chief Officer David Page said:
“the current capital allocation for policing is amongst the lowest in the UK policing ... and will undoubtedly inhibit our ability to keep up with the threat ... posed to the people of Scotland”.
That is what the SNP, which has been in power for 13 years, has done to Scottish policing, in spite of the fact that it has benefited from preferential funding settlements from the Westminster Government.
On the issue of police funding, we have dangerous shortfalls in resources, infrastructure and technology, which, every day, hamper our ability to deal with the crime that so many suffer from. At the same time, south of the border, there are increased and consistent commitments to police funding and numbers. Here, we see an SNP Government that is determined to disregard the issues that are facing our police force. The SNP’s record on police funding has been examined and found wanting. The Scottish Conservatives are, however, committed to upholding a strong and fully funded justice system in Scotland. We are, and will remain, the party of law and order.
All of that begs the question of what the Tories are doing in England.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate on justice. It provides an opportunity to consider what the Tories have said about policing in Scotland, and to shine a light on the SNP Government’s record of delivery of policing in Scotland. Indeed, the SNP Government has a record on policing that it can be proud of. Despite constraints on Scotland’s public services through a decade of UK austerity and Tory cuts, policing services have been maintained and improved under this Government, and they will be improved by the budget.
Across resource and capital funding, the Scottish Government has increased Police Scotland’s budget in every one of the past five years. Since 2013, the Scottish Government has invested more than £9 billion in policing in Scotland. I note, as other members have, the email that was received today that indicated that a further £13 million resource and £5 million capital funding has been allocated. The Scottish Government has backed up promises for reform with investment, and the further commitment in the budget underlines that. In England, the Tories have closed more than 600 police stations.
We know that there have been significant improvements in the SPA’s financial management that have been recognised by the Auditor General. In the most recent report and accounts published last month, Audit Scotland acknowledges improving systems of financial control.
That record of investment has to be set in context, because the hypocrisy that is on display in today’s motion is staggering. We have the Tories demanding more and more money, and denigrating the SNP Government budget, but they say nothing about the fact that Scotland’s resource budget from the UK Government for 2020-21 will be around 2.8 per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2010, and that our budget is being set despite the UK Government’s failure to provide clarity on next year’s funding for Scotland.
The Scottish Government has committed to providing an extra £42 million, plus the extra money that the cabinet secretary has told us about today. That represents a 3.6 per cent rise to more than £1.2 billion, which will ensure that the service can keep officer numbers at current levels, as well as maintaining and modernising its estate. Police Scotland’s capital budget has doubled from £20 million in 2016-17 to £40 million in 2020-21.
When they are talking about policing, the Tories in this place should direct their critique and attention to their friends in the UK Government, particularly the Treasury. Although the SNP Government has ensured that Police Scotland will benefit from being able to reclaim VAT of around £25 million a year that was to be paid to the UK Government, the Scottish ministers continue to press the UK Government to pay back the £125 million that Police Scotland paid in VAT before the Treasury reversed that unfair policy in 2018. Fifteen letters have been sent to the UK Government and we have received no answer. There is no respect agenda for this place among the Tories. When will the Treasury see sense and give back that essential funding? Perhaps the Tories will raise the issue with their UK Government friends, instead of carping from the sidelines as they always do.
I have a further ask of my colleagues on the Opposition benches. Policing in Scotland is facing exceptional and unprecedented demands including EU exit, COP26, and Covid-19 coronavirus. Our ministers will continue to negotiate with the UK Government to ensure that it meets the full costs of policing EU exit and of hosting the COP26 summit. The Scottish Government has been clear that any costs relating to EU exit should not have a detrimental impact on Scotland’s public finances and policing, and I agree. Let us hear what the Conservatives have to say about that. I hope that they will clarify their advocations to the UK Government in that regard.
If the Opposition is not talking down education in the chamber, it is talking down health, and if it is not talking down health, it is talking down justice, but we know what the core issue is, as do the people of Scotland. The SNP Government is delivering on all those areas and it is delivering on policing in particular.
Policing in Scotland is performing well. The 2018-19 annual report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland stated:
“we continue to be impressed by the determination of officers and staff to delivering an effective policing service to the communities they serve.”
Working alongside its partners, Police Scotland has reduced crime by around 42 per cent over the past decade, which includes significant reductions in violent crime. Over the past 10 years, crime has been on a downward trend in Scotland, having decreased by 27 per cent since 2009-10. The majority of adults say that the police are doing a good or excellent job in their local area, and 77 per cent of adults say that they feel very or fairly safe walking alone in their neighbourhood .
All that has been delivered by our hardworking police. Our police officers and staff do an excellent job. I will end by paying tribute to all our police staff, men and women, and thank them for everything they do to keep all our communities safe.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I say to Richard Lyle that it is not about talking things down but about injecting a note of reality into our debates in the chamber. We all value our local police and I, for one, am grateful to all the police in L division for everything that they do in my local community. They are often the first on the scene, sometimes facing dangerous situations, helping to restore order and preventing crime. They make my local community feel safe and secure.
We need to make sure that they are adequately resourced to do their job, but I fear that the thin blue line is getting even thinner. I watched the creation of a single police force in the context of the impact that it had on my local community. Teething problems are to be expected in any major reorganisation—but then came the cuts, not just in my area but across Scotland. First, the jobs of support staff were cut. They did the valuable job of administration so that police officers were released to engage in visible policing instead of being anchored to their desks. Now, officers spend far too much of their time processing paperwork. Secondly, elements of the service were centralised. The cells were closed down in Dumbarton and officers had to travel further, to Clydebank, using up valuable time that could have been deployed elsewhere.
There was even a proposal at one stage—absurd though it may seem—to merge two divisions in my local area that crossed the Clyde, which would have resulted in a huge land mass to police effectively. The proposal made no geographical sense and it was completely arbitrary. After some robust local protests, the plans were abandoned. Then came the proposal to close down the Dumbarton office, with no alternative police station, and to sell the land for housing. Quite where officers were supposed to muster was clearly not even a consideration.
So, although I am not Police Scotland’s number 1 fan, given that track record, I recognise that it needs to be adequately resourced if it is to do its job effectively. The SNP Government has singularly failed to engage with Police Scotland about the warnings over funding that it has been voicing, increasingly loudly, for some time. I understand that the chief constable, lain Livingstone, reportedly told the Scottish Police Authority that Police Scotland’s annual budget is £200 million less than it was when the single force was created in April 2013.
I will focus on the capital allocation of £40 million in the draft budget, which is significantly less than is required. That has been the pattern for the past few years. Last year, the police got half of what it needed. That is not a question of what would be nice to have. The capital is essential if we are to have an efficient and effective modern police force.
Things as basic as smartphones and body cameras are routinely available to police in England but are not being issued in Scotland, although that was planned. Underinvestment in the police car fleet is beginning to take its toll, with one car breaking down every day. The Scottish Government has just announced another £5 million of capital for the police, which is welcome, but it is a fraction of what the police tell us that they need. The Scottish Police Federation has told us about the strain that police officers are under, with two thirds of police officers saying that the lack of resources is causing them stress.
Police Scotland comes 38th in a list of 43 police forces in the UK for the amount of capital that forces are given. Just the other week, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice was on his feet denying that there is a problem with the condition of the police estate when, unfortunately, the ceiling fell down in his local station, leaving him a bit red faced and exposed. One would think that he would have learned his lesson and would come to the chamber with a more honest appraisal of the challenges that face the police. I regret the fact that the country has had to deal with a decade of Tory austerity, but I do not expect the cabinet secretary to take a blinkered approach to the needs of the police.
The cabinet secretary talked about the additional revenue and capital, but he should acknowledge that that falls well short of what is required. The capital is at least £50 million less than required, and the revenue is a lot less, too. If members agree with the chief constable that the budget is £200 million less than it was in 2013, no matter which way we spin it, that is a cut in real terms and cash terms.
We should all be concerned by the consequences of that, not just for police officers but for the communities that they serve. Crime is rising. Recordings of non-sexual violent crime are up over the past four years, while sexual crimes have increased by 8 per cent and are at their highest level since statistics were first recorded. At the same time, clear-up rates of serious crimes are falling, for non-sexual violent crimes and for sexual crimes. Indeed, for sexual crimes, the rate is now at its lowest since 1979.
I recognise that money is tight, but the decisions that we make in the Parliament have consequences for the police and for the communities that they serve. The cabinet secretary would do well to acknowledge that, rather than pretend that everything is wonderful when, in reality, the experience on the ground is very different.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to commend Police Scotland for its service the length and breadth of our country. As the representative of Glasgow Anniesland, I have had the pleasure of directly seeing the positive impact of Glasgow north-west and Drumchapel police in protecting and providing a service to my constituents. Of course, it is not only in my constituency that I have witnessed the excellent service of police officers. Here in the Parliament building, workers and visitors are kept safe because of the dedicated work of the police and security services.
Across Scotland, our police force continues to work to reduce crime and increase safety. Over the past decade, Police Scotland, in collaboration with its partners, has reduced crime by around 42 per cent. That did not happen without money. Even with all the effort in the world, it could not have happened if there had been no resources. The reduction includes a significant reduction in violent crime, which has been reaffirmed by the most recently released statistics for the crime rates in Glasgow. Recorded crime remains at one of the lowest levels since 1974, and 77 per cent of adults say that they feel very or fairly safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark. That is because of our police service. The money that goes to the police service enables the people in it to deliver that service.
The most recent crime and justice survey showed that, in 2017-18, 12.5 per cent of adults in Scotland experienced crime, which is lower than the equivalent statistic for England and Wales. The majority of adults in Scotland find that local police provide a good or excellent service to their area. We have a police service that is trusted and liked. Moreover, it is essential to the safe and productive functioning of our society.
This country is kept safe by our police force, which needs the uprate in its budget that will be provided, and which I am pleased has been announced. I welcome that that funding has been allocated to Police Scotland, despite Scotland’s discretionary resource budget from the UK Government for 2020-21 being 2.8 per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2010.
We have managed to reflect the importance of the police through an increase in funding, and Police Scotland’s capital budget will be doubled this year. Notable figures in Police Scotland, the SPA, the Scottish Police Federation and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents have all responded positively to the Scottish Government’s budget proposals. Deputy Chief Officer David Page of Police Scotland provides one example of their welcome for the budget. He highlighted that the settlement
“includes an uplift of revenue funding” of many millions of pounds, which is much higher than the police originally anticipated.
Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation has spoken of how the funding settlement provides additional options for the police force, which I will now focus on.
Our police force often goes above and beyond the call of duty. I know that we all have examples from our constituencies that spring to mind of where the police have made substantial contributions to our communities. Just yesterday, I heard a new example of the police force in Glasgow doing just that.
Holyrood magazine reported that, through the delivery of a 12-month plan, police officers in Glasgow are to be trained to signpost drug addicts to places where they can get recovery support.
The plan aims to reduce drug deaths and it follows on from the tragic statistic that the area that is covered by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has the highest number of drug deaths in Scotland. It is a very serious issue. The engagement of front-line officers, who are often the first responders in drug-related incidents, could have a significant impact on turning the situation around. The measures are planned by Police Scotland under the proposals of the budget that we are talking about today, and today’s drug summit in Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus Centre shows collaboration between the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council in that regard.
Police officers, as first responders, have the potential to reach vulnerable people. It is quite probable that many such people would not otherwise know where to find the support that is available to them, particularly as they are often disconnected from the rest of society. The police will be bringing them back into society.
Created in collaboration with many partners, the delivery plan is an example of the lengths to which the police go to ensure the safety of all our citizens. It illustrates the complexity of the job of a police officer and how they are often required to go into unpredictable situations and offer solutions and security, while enforcing the law.
I welcome this year’s budget proposals for the police, because they will make it possible for Police Scotland to continue to deliver the fantastic service that it provides for us all.
I pay tribute to the police officers and staff who work daily to keep us safe. I also pay tribute to the memory of my father-in-law, who left Lewis to join the Royal Navy and fight in the second world war and who, on being demobbed, joined the police force in Fife and spent 30 years serving the community. My wife was born in the police house in Coaltown of Wemyss. Having been married for more than 45 years, a little bit of that police background has rubbed off on me.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in a debate on this important issue, and I thank my colleague Liam Kerr for securing it.
Although police funding—or, rather, the lack of it—affects the whole of Scotland, there have been incidents that are specific to my area—North East Scotland—that I will highlight in due course.
Over the past few weeks, unprecedented attacks by senior police officers have been aimed at the SNP Government about the funding of Police Scotland. Despite those astonishing and heartfelt interventions from senior police officers, the SNP Government is still not listening. The Scottish Police Federation, the Scottish Police Authority and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents have all publicly stated their concerns about this year’s budget, which still leaves Police Scotland short. Not only is the SNP putting the public at risk by not fully funding our police, but it is putting front-line police officers, who risk their lives every day to keep us safe, at more risk.
The cabinet secretary has already had a chance to air his excuses.
Police officers cannot do their jobs without proper equipment, but the police estate, which includes cars, phones and body cams, is woefully underfunded. The Scottish Police Federation said in a letter to the Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing that
“More than 25% of the Police Scotland estate is graded as being in poor condition; 2/3 of the estate is over 40 years old, and 1/3 is over 70 years old.”
Calum Steele, of the federation, told the sub-committee that insufficient funding impacted on everything from replacing uniforms to
“provision of fleet, buildings, estate and other infrastructure”—[
Official Report, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing
, 30 May 2019; c 3.]
and Chief Superintendent Ivor Marshall, then of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, warned that officers who are
“left working with sub-optimal equipment in sub-optimal conditions”—[
Official Report, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing
, 30 May 2019; c 3.]
are not as productive or effective.
Police Scotland is facing an unsustainable financial deficit, despite receiving more money than expected in this month’s budget.
I would like to make some progress.
As I have mentioned already, the shortfall affects Police Scotland’s ability to maintain police stations and to replace or upgrade other equipment including cars and IT systems. As we have heard several times in the debate, that was more apparent than ever when the ceiling in Broughty Ferry police station, in my area, collapsed just hours after the cabinet secretary had dismissed criticisms of the condition of the force’s buildings. The full extent of the damage at Broughty Ferry is not known, but the station is still closed. Following the incident, Tayside’s divisional commander Chief Superintendent Andrew Todd said:
“I am grateful to officers and staff who continue to work tirelessly in challenging conditions”.
However, the poor condition of the police station in Broughty Ferry is not the only concern in the area. In Dundee City Council, the community safety and public protection committee heard that there was a 36.6 per cent increase in the number of police assaults in the last quarter of last year, over the previous year’s figure, and that two of the 231 attacks were classed as serious.
Meanwhile, new figures have revealed that the police in Dundee and Angus recorded more than 3,300 incidents of domestic abuse in 2018-19. That means that there were more than nine such incidents each day in those council areas. Although Angus has seen a fall in the number of such crimes, Dundee’s incident numbers are at a four-year high. Across Scotland, the number of domestic abuse cases rose for the third year in a row, to 60,641, which is a new all-time high. Those figures are likely only to get worse, as police funding continues to be insufficient.
Under the SNP Government, violent crime has been rising over the past four years, overall crime has been rising for the past two years and there are now nearly a thousand incidents of antisocial behaviour each day. Is it any wonder that confidence in policing has fallen, with only 57 per cent of Scots thinking that the police are doing a good or excellent job in their area?
Police officers and support staff are overworked, because almost every area of Scotland has had fewer officers on the front line since the SNP’s police merger happened. The Scottish Police Federation has said that officers’ workloads are harming their mental health. Police Scotland’s chaplain has said that the SNP’s underresourcing has left officers who are in his pastoral care “tired, frustrated and depressed”.
As we have heard, Scotland’s budget is increasing by more than £1 billion this year, and £96 million of that is Barnett consequentials resulting from police funding for England and Wales. The SNP therefore has no excuses. Only the Scottish Conservatives are standing up for our police officers and demanding a full and fair settlement.
I conclude by reiterating Police Scotland’s chaplain’s assessment of the current state of the force. The nature of his work surely means that his is a well informed and non-political viewpoint. According to him, our front-line officers are “tired, frustrated and depressed”. We owe our police force—and the public—much more than that.
I welcome that the Tories have brought the debate to the chamber.
I would like more money to go to Police Scotland, to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, to local government and to every aspect of the public sector in our country. However, the farce of the long-delayed UK Government budget making it harder for the Scottish Government to deliver its budget is there for all to see. That situation highlights another farce, in the form of the constitutional arrangements that the Scottish Parliament currently has to endure.
I welcome the fact that an extra £60 million is to be invested in Police Scotland. I say “Well done” to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party for securing a deal to get the budget passed.
So, despite the decade of Tory austerity, the Scottish Government has increased the police budget. However, I believe that Police Scotland has been underfunded—it has been underfunded by £125 million of VAT money, which has been kept in the bank account of the Tory UK Government.
We have heard from quite a few Tory MSPs today about Barnett consequentials. However, the approach that they have taken in that regard would mean that the UK Government’s policies would determine what happened in this Parliament when, surely, it is up to the Scottish Government to determine how it wants to invest the money that it has. To the Tories in the chamber and the small band of their members in the country, I say that that VAT is our money—it is our tax and we want it back.
The Tories want more money to be invested through the budget, but they clearly cannot count. Their calls for £1.5 billion extra funding along with tax cuts for the wealthiest people does not tally with the extra £1.1 billion of additional resource that the Scottish Government has.
Under the current constitutional arrangements, sadly, we are part of the UK, but that money is actually our tax money, too.
The Tories have raised a number of issues today. As has been mentioned, Liam Kerr made a number of false accusations in his
Mail on Sunday column. However, Mr Kerr needs to correct the record and to acknowledge that 30 per cent of our police officers are female, including Chief Superintendent Debbie Reilly, who heads up the Greenock office.
A second issue is fake news about rising crime. From 2009-10 to 2018-19, crime has decreased by 37 per cent in my area, Inverclyde, and by 42 per cent across Scotland as a whole. I know that the Tories have a penchant for talking Inverclyde down, but it would be helpful if, when there is a positive story, they would acknowledge success.
The reduction in crime has happened because of a vast amount of work by our police officers, working in partnership with Inverclyde Council, other emergency services, the third sector and others. I am sure that the cashback for communities scheme has played a part: feedback that I have had from many organisations and individuals in my community is hugely positive about how the scheme has helped them to engage with younger people, and has helped to prevent young people from getting into a cycle of crime.
There will always be challenges that need to be faced in every aspect of the public sector. I am sure that every member can agree on that point. However, it is also important to highlight that policing in Scotland is performing well compared with England. Some members do not like hearing comparisons with England, but Gordon Lindhurst made such a comparison in his speech and during question time earlier today.
One of my proudest moments was while attending my sister’s passing-out parade when she became a police officer in a force in England. Over the years, talking to my sister about events that she has been involved in has been fascinating and challenging in equal measure. The way in which some aspects of policing in her force differ from practices in Scotland is interesting and has made me glad to live in Scotland. My respect and support for our police officers has grown immeasurably as a result of those discussions.
It is a fact that there are more police officers than there were at any time during the previous parties’ Administrations. Recruitment to Police Scotland continues to be strong. There are significantly more police officers than there were at any time before 2007. The total number of officers is 17,259, as at 31 December 2019. That can be contrasted with cuts of up to 20,000 officers in England and Wales over the past decade. Even if the forces in England and Wales were to replace the officers that they have cut since 2007, there would be only about 24 officers per 10,000 population, which is well below the rate in Scotland, which has 32 officers per 10,000 population.
I am sorry, but I am reaching the end of my time.
I am pleased that a budget agreement has been reached today. It proves once again that Opposition parties that engage genuinely in budget discussions with the Scottish Government get results. The better together parties might want to consider that for next year.
It can get confusing when we take part in debates on policing. We get all the numbers floating around—we have inevitably heard about 17,234 police officers and we have also heard about 1,000 police officers. However, I was confused last week when the First Minister said that police officer numbers have been maintained, because back in 2018, when numbers fell consistently below that level, Michael Matheson told me that those numbers were a matter for the chief constable and were nothing to do with the Government. I am confused because, when those numbers are cited, we never hear about the 2,000 police staff that have been cut. Surely the Scottish Government is not trying to have it both ways, blaming falls in police numbers on police officers but then taking credit for itself.
I am confused because, if we look at why the numbers have been restored, the chief constable restored them not—[
.] The cabinet secretary said, “Brexit.” Indeed—he should be thanking the Tories, because if it was not for their constitutional chaos, the chief constable would not have had to make that unsustainable financial decision. Back in the autumn, he said that he had funding for only 16,500 officers. We should think about the decision that he must have had to make. To be frank, I do not know who is going to win the brass neck of the year competition—the Scottish Government for taking credit for the decisions that the chief constable is having to make, or the Tories for creating the constitutional crisis that led to the situation in the first place.
At the heart of the issue is a contradiction. Year on year, we hear about police numbers being up, but we also hear the same stories about the police being overstretched. Indeed, we heard today both from my colleague James Kelly and from Liam McArthur about the real, human impact of the underfunding and the consequences for police officers. Frankly, I find it surprising that the cabinet secretary is willing to trumpet and take credit for decisions, yet we hear not one word about the conditions found in our police stations, the shortages of equipment, the lack of breaks that is a regular feature of police officers’ days, the mental health consequences for our police officers, the impact on morale, or the real pressures that our police officers are being placed under day in, day out. That is the reality of the lack of capital funding in our police force.
It is all very easy to talk about big numbers and what has and has not been funded. The reality is that a lack of funding means a lack of resources and basic equipment for our police officers. As many speakers have pointed out, Police Scotland has the fifth worst capital allocation of any police force in the United Kingdom. Let us put that in context. We would need to double Police Scotland’s £1,500 per employee capital allocation in order to match the Greater Manchester Police capital allocation of £3,000 per full-time equivalent. We would need to quadruple it to match the Metropolitan Police allocation, which is a relevant comparison, because the Metropolitan Police is investing in a transformation programme. The Scottish Government is failing to provide the funds for such a programme even though the Scottish Police Service badly needs one.
I do not take issue with the figures that the member quoted, but does he think that there is a danger in appearing to suggest that Police Scotland is not capable of dealing with issues? Police Scotland has had a very successful track record recently in dealing with serious organised crime and a lot of internet crime.
I thank Mr Finnie for that point. The Police Service of Scotland does a phenomenal job, but I think that it does that despite its funding allocation, and not because of it.
If we look at many of those serious issues, we see that tackling them requires funding.
In an intervention, I mentioned the £300 million investment that Police Scotland needs simply to modernise its ICT. Again, we need to look at the detail. There are still eight crime-recording systems across the divisions in Scotland and smart devices are not routinely issued to officers. A single crime-recording system and smart devices are the basic and most fundamental requirements in running a modern police service: they mean that police officers do not have to return to the police station. For goodness’ sake, it is only in the past year or so that police officers have been able to sign into their email regardless of where they are in the police estate—until recently, there were multiple email systems.
There are real consequences for local policing. The reality is that capital investment was needed to create a single police force. Over Police Scotland’s seven years of existence, it has simply not had that capital investment, which has meant that it has not been possible to fulfil the promise made at the creation of Police Scotland. We were promised that a single police force would free up resources, would make savings and would not duplicate headquarters functions or specialist functions. However, the lack of investment means that we have lost up to 400 police officers from the local division level. Rather than freeing up resources, resources have been sucked into the centre. Police officers are carrying out administrative functions and backfilling for staff, and they are carrying out executive functions at headquarters and assisting senior police officers. That cannot be right, but it is absolutely a function of the short-sighted capital underfunding of Police Scotland by the SNP Scottish Government.
I will briefly mention a point made by Johann Lamont. Such underfunding is not happening in isolation. There is serious chronic underfunding across our public services, and it is the police who step in and fill the breach. It is the police who fill the gaps in social work funding; it is the police who have to sit in emergency rooms; and it is the police who have to find missing people. Those are the consequences of underfunding in public services and of the crucial and critical underfunding of our police service in Scotland.
I have enjoyed the debate and I am pleased that Liam Kerr brought it to the chamber. It has been an opportunity for those of us on the SNP side of the chamber to acknowledge that of course there are challenges. I think that I have acknowledged that not just in this debate but every time that I have been in front of the Justice Committee or the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing.
An important point that was made very well by John Finnie a second ago, and by Rona Mackay, Fulton MacGregor and Richard Lyle, is that, from the inception of Police Scotland to this day, the outcomes that the public really cares about—such as being kept safe—have been very positive.
The inaccurate suggestion that policing is in crisis is fundamentally wide of the mark. I know of senior officers’ frustration when they hear politicians talk about policing being in crisis. When we do not selectively pick one year’s statistics—or even quarterly statistics, as the Opposition sometimes does—the outcomes include a 42 per cent fall in crime since 2006-07. [
.] I will come on to non-sexual violent crime in a second.
I will give way in one second, when I have finished with some of the numbers.
There was a shout about non-sexual violent crime from someone on the Conservative benches. Such crime has fallen by 43 per cent since 2006-07, and homicide has fallen by 25 per cent—[
.] I say to Mr Kelly that I am not selectively quoting; I am giving him the long-term projections.
I give way to Daniel Johnson.
I absolutely accept, as does the chief constable when I have spoken to him, that we can do more. We will look to do more when it comes to the mental wellbeing of our police officers. Let us not forget that they deal with a job that is unlike any other job. They deal with stress, conflict and tension, and they see things that we will never see in our lifetimes. Of course that can add to or exacerbate some of those issues.
I do not want to take away from Daniel Johnson’s point. I am certain that, with the additional uplift that we are giving policing—particularly the additional uplift in resource—the chief constable will consider the wellbeing of his officers.
There has been a significant conversation—every speaker has mentioned this—about the funding issues around Police Scotland. When we stood in the Holyrood elections in 2016, which we won comprehensively, our manifesto committed to protecting the resource budget. I am delighted that, with the deal that we have struck with the Greens, we have gone above and beyond that commitment. We have not just invested an additional £100 million, as we promised when we committed to protect the police budget in real terms; we have gone to £140 million. We do not only talk the talk; we walk the walk.
There is a £60 million additional increase for Police Scotland in the 2020-21 budget. That is not a real-terms protection; it is a 5.1 per cent increase, and it helps us to maintain 1,000 additional police officers.
As I have said, it is a 5.1 per cent increase. It is a £60.2 million uplift, which is £10 million more than Conservative members asked for. They asked for £50 million and said that they would vote for a budget that would increase police spending by £50 million. We have increased it, not by £50 million or by £55 million, but by £60 million. I thought that the Conservatives would welcome that.
Johann Lamont should not worry. The finance secretary will come forward with the detail of the budget tomorrow, and she can ask her that question.
I will come back to Labour’s position on police finance shortly. In fact, I will deal with it now because I know that Johann Lamont and the Labour Party have an interest.
I believe that the Labour Party values the police; I do not doubt the commitment of anyone in the chamber to Police Scotland. We all want to see the police service being well funded, and in Labour’s contributions to budget discussions, it has said that resourcing the police is absolutely vital and fundamental. It is funny that it claims to place such importance on police funding. I have looked over its public demands for the budget, and how many times was police funding mentioned? Zero. How much extra money has Labour demanded during budget discussions? Zero, nought, nada, diddly-squat. Although its members pontificate, rant and go red with bluff and bluster when they talk about police funding, they simply do not match that rhetoric with action.
Let us see how we compare with the Conservative Party in its management of policing. In Scotland, there are more than 1,000 additional police officers compared with the number that we inherited when we first came into power, versus a 20,000 cut in England in Wales. We also recognise the excellent work that our police officers do. We do not just talk about that; we have rewarded them with a 6.5 per cent pay increase, which was described by the Scottish Police Federation as the best pay increase in 20 years. In England and Wales, the Conservatives gave a pay increase of below 3 per cent—that is derisory in the utmost.
There are 317 police officers per 100,000 people in Scotland, versus 209 officers per 100,000 in England. Police public order and safety spending in Scotland is £478 per person, versus £420 in England.
I will come to Liam Kerr in a moment.
In an intervention on Rona Mackay, Liam Kerr suggested that more is spent per square metre on the estate in England. That is because every police force in England and Wales has probably had to sell off most of its estate.
Britain’s largest police force, the Metropolitan Police, has run out of things to sell, having sold £1 billion-worth of property. I quote the Metropolitan Police Federation, which said that funding cuts have led the force to breaking point. It said:
“We’ve sold the crown jewels, so to speak. We’ve run out of things to sell.”
That is really worrying.
I am happy to stand toe to toe with Liam Kerr any day of the week when it comes to our record on police spending versus his party’s derisory and abysmal handling of the police service in England and Wales.
Tories say—and have said in this debate—that they should be congratulated on their investment in policing in England and Wales, as is demonstrated by the recruitment of 20,000 police officers. I ask members to imagine a party wanting a pat on the back simply for repairing the horrific damage and decimation for which it is responsible. The Tories are like the arsonist who expects praise for burning down someone’s house but—hey—at least they brought a fire extinguisher with them.
We should never ignore or talk down the incredible job that our police officers and staff do. John Finnie was correct to say, as other members did, that the police retain a remarkable level of public confidence. The Scottish crime and justice survey shows that a majority of the public believe that Police Scotland does a good or excellent job. Richard Lyle was right to say that people feel safe in their communities and neighbourhoods, and Fulton MacGregor referenced statistics in that regard.
Richard Lyle mentioned the HMICS 2018-19 annual report, in which the chief inspector said:
“we continue to be impressed by the determination of officers and staff to delivering an effective policing service to the communities they serve.”
This has been a robust debate, in which members—certainly of my party—have been able to articulate our investment in our hard-working police officers. I am delighted to commend the amendment in my name, which acknowledges challenges but also, I am delighted to say, acknowledges that we are investing in our police officers and police service. If we continue to do that, we will continue to see the lowest crime rates on record. I hope that members will back the amendment, which demonstrates our continued belief and investment in our police service in Scotland.
The motion on which we will shortly vote is concise, straightforward and unambiguous. Above all, it is accurate.
The 2020-21 draft budget leaves Police Scotland millions of pounds short in carrying out the vital work that is needed to keep our communities safe. It is therefore disappointing that the SNP and, in particular, Labour—albeit that there were excellent speeches from Johann Lamont and Jackie Baillie—lodged amendments that, rather than addressing the issue, indulge in political point scoring. It is disappointing that much of the cabinet secretary’s rhetoric in his closing speech was in the same vein.
During the speeches in today’s debate, a vivid and deeply concerning picture has emerged of a dilapidated estate and a vehicle fleet that is long past its sell-by date. We heard that the modernisation programme that is essential to ensuring that Police Scotland’s officers are equipped to do the taxing job that we ask of them has been, at best, put on hold and, at worst, scrapped altogether.
At the outset, I want to establish why the funding of Scotland’s national force is so important. We are fortunate to live in a democracy in which we enjoy fundamental freedoms: the right to go about our lawful business without threat; freedom of speech; and the right to express our views at the ballot box and reject the Government of the day—whatever its political persuasion—if it is failing to deliver. Those freedoms have been hard won and should never be taken for granted. Underpinning them is the rule of law. When that breaks down, those freedoms are under threat.
In carrying out their role as enforcers of the rule of law, serving officers have the power to lawfully deprive citizens of their most fundamental freedom—their right to liberty—but with special rights and powers come responsibilities. Unlike most other public services, the police workforce cannot withhold its labour to protest about the appalling state of the buildings in which they work and their lack of adequate equipment and IT to do the challenging job that is expected of them to the best of their ability.
When the chief constable is compelled to speak out—an unprecedented move, as Liam McArthur said—and describes the capital allocations for buildings, fleet and IT as “derisory”, given the size of the force, the First Minister and her Government should listen. Various cabinet secretaries for justice have boasted that the creation of a unitary force has made Police Scotland the second largest force in the UK, but the chief constable has pointed out that Police Scotland is being forced to “make do and mend” with its current capital allocations, which are among the lowest in UK policing on a per capita basis and lower than those for many other public bodies in Scotland.
When both the chief constable and the Scottish Police Authority reveal that the current policing budget is unsustainable and that Police Scotland is heading for a crisis, the First Minister and her Government must not only listen, but act.
There is now an additional 30 per cent uplift to the capital budget. Will Margaret Mitchell answer the question that none of the other Conservative speakers has answered? Why would £50 million of additional funding for the police be adequate for the Tories, while £60 million is inadequate?
The £50 million is on top of the £96 million of policing consequentials from the Barnett formula. I hope that by the end of the debate the Government will confirm that those will be passed on.
It is deeply concerning that, as a direct consequence of underfunding, Scotland’s police officers have little hope of maintaining a level playing field when competing with the state-of-the-art equipment available to the criminal world, let alone of endeavouring to be one step ahead. Smartphones can be provided only to some officers, with the result that most officers have to return to the station to spend time filing computer reports. That time could and should be spent on the front line and on addressing other core police activities.
In England and Wales, body-worn video cameras are issued to officers and considered to be basic equipment to assist in safeguarding officers’ health and safety. In Scotland, the cabinet secretary says that there is a need for a wide-ranging debate about the ethics of their introduction and he expects the issue to be considered by an independently chaired ethics advisory group. Dither and delay come to mind. That is despite the fact that one of the key recommendations from Dame Elish Angiolini’s independent review into complaints handling, investigations and misconduct was that Police Scotland officers should be equipped with body-worn video cameras.
I turn to police vehicles. More than half of Police Scotland’s fleet is currently operating beyond its replacement criteria. The draft budget allocates a ring-fenced £5 million to invest in greener vehicles to replace those that are more than five years old or have done more than 125,000 miles. That is at least £8 million short of the funding that would be required to achieve that aim.
Meanwhile, the police fleet consists in large part of old diesel vehicles.
The First Minister never tires of talking up her Government’s commitment to achieving ambitious reductions in CO2 emissions and has been a staunch defender of the introduction of a punitive workplace parking levy that will supposedly help her to achieve that aim. At the same time, she cannot fail to be aware that those old diesel vehicles are driven throughout Scotland’s streets, towns and villages, emitting toxic fumes, on a daily basis. Frankly, it is jaw-dropping hypocrisy, which should be properly ridiculed and condemned at a time that Scotland is hosting COP26 in Glasgow. The Scottish Government has an opportunity to try to salvage some credibility in advance of the conference in November by prioritising sufficient funding in the draft budget to replace those ageing diesel vehicles.
During the debate, members have described the dire working environment in which police operate due to the ageing estate. Significantly, it is in that totally unsustainable environment that vulnerable people are interviewed and are expected to have confidence in a modern police force’s ability to successfully investigate their issues. Be in no doubt that there is a human cost to the underfunding, which was highlighted by the chief constable when he said that current funding settlements will directly affect Police Scotland’s ability to keep Scots safe. He raised the prospect of police being compelled to stop investigating some crimes as a result of the looming financial crisis. In effect, the most serious crimes will be investigated, but lesser crimes, for example scams that target the elderly, may not be.
When John Finnie and I, as the respective conveners of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing and the Justice Committee, along with the cabinet secretary, attend the SPF annual bravery awards, we are humbled and inspired in equal measure by the bravery of our front-line officers. Every year, we commit to give them our full support, but the cabinet secretary’s warm words will not suffice. It is time for the First Minister and her Government to give that support, and they can start by confirming that the draft budget will be reviewed and Police Scotland will receive every penny of the £96 million of the UK Government’s policing Barnett consequentials, in addition to the extra money that they have managed to find through a deal with the Greens.
Quite frankly, Police Scotland and its dedicated workforce deserve nothing less. Local communities need to be assured that Scotland’s police force is sufficiently financed to meet the challenges of a modern police service in the 21st century.