Crime and Antisocial Behaviour (Highlands and Islands)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 31 January 2024.

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Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what its priorities are for tackling crime and antisocial behaviour in the Highlands and Islands. (S6O-03031)

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government supports action by Police Scotland and partner bodies to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in the Highlands and Islands and across the whole of Scotland.

Police Scotland and local authorities have a range of options available to them to address antisocial behaviour, and I have established a working group to examine our current approach to the issue and propose improvements.

The 2024-25 Scottish budget will increase funding for policing by £92.7 million, which is an increase of 6.4 per cent. That includes a 12.5 per cent increase in capital budget, to a record figure of £1.55 billion. As of 30 September 2023, northern division in the Highlands and Islands had 668 officers, which is an increase of 44 on the figure of 624 at the same point in the previous year.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

In the past few years, police stations have been lost across the Highlands and Islands while concern has been growing in many local communities, rural and urban, that, despite the efforts of officers, there is a move away from local policing and a reduced police presence. After the cuts to the previous budget, are there fewer or more police officers in the Highlands and Islands today than there were at this time last year? Does the minister expect that the number of police officers across the Highlands and Islands will have increased or decreased by this time next year?

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party

As I said in my previous answer, between last year and this year, the number of officers increased by 44.

Since 2017-18, we have tripled the capital budget for policing, which has supported continued investment in police assets. Responsibility for the allocation of those resources and for the management of the police estate, including police station closures, sits with the Scottish Police Authority and the chief constable.

I agree with Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, who has stated:

“Our presence in communities is not defined by buildings but by the officers and staff who work there”.

That is an important point.

We have already introduced technology that enables our officers to remain in local areas and reduces the need for them to return to police stations to deal with paperwork. In essence, we want officers to spend more time in communities, and the role of modern policing does not mean that they should be tied to a station.