Cuts prompt Police Scotland to ‘source equipment from charity shops’

22 Jul 16

Funds are so tightly squeezed in Police Scotland that officers have been sent to trawl charity shops for equipment, according to the leader of the Scottish Police Federation.

In an abrasively-worded article on the SPF website, general secretary Calum Steele also claims that police dog-handlers had been called off from following trails for fear of running into overtime. He says that service quality has become a postcode lottery where “cash is king” in determining operational priorities.

On one occasion, Steele says, officers were told to “scour charity shops” to buy car sun blinds in order to keep out of view a child that was being driven in a police car. 

"At a time when so much emphasis is being placed on the cost of policing, it's long overdue that we had a real conversation about its value," Steele writes.

“Cash is king and woe betide anyone who isn't playing their part in making cuts. Theorising on paper that the service will be improved by cutting is a fool's errand and the public is being misled over the policing realities of today.”

The claims come at a time when the Scottish Government is running a public consultation on strategic priorities for Police Scotland, the controversial national force created in 2013 through the merger of Scotland’s eight regional forces.

The Scottish Government has promised to maintain the police revenue budget in real terms throughout this parliament and to boost investment spend by £100m, though a long-standing commitment to boost front-line police numbers by 1,000 seems to have been quietly dropped since this year’s Scottish Parliament election.

Steele adds: "Let us not kid on that decisions to send policing responses are firstly judged on need when a budget built on cuts needs to be balanced.

“General and criminal inquiries are passed from officer to officer to officer, grossly diminishing the care for victims and increasing the likelihood of mistakes being made, evidence being lost and greater costs and abstractions should the issue subsequently progress to court,” Steele says.

"Rural communities are seeing their police services diminished and access is very much a postcode and bank account lottery.”

In response, a Police Scotland spokeswoman accepted that the force faced “financial challenges” to which it was seeking “sustainable solutions,” but insisted that officers did not routinely source items from charity shops nor suspend searches because they had reached the end of their shift. Also, she said, public confidence in policing was high.

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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