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Justice Secretary rejects claims Police Scotland will run out of cash for wages

But federation warns loss of local authority funding could see 1,000 less officers

The Scottish government has played down “outrageous” claims Britain’s second largest force is running out of cash and could lose up to 1,000 officers next year.

The Scottish Police Federation insists the national force is "in a really precarious position", raising fears that officers’ wages could not be paid after February next year.

SPF general secretary Calum Steele officers faced the “debilitating” impact of working in crumbling buildings and the “demoralising” effect of driving around in "sooty diesels that are barely able to be kept on the road", while some detectives do not have access to a police vehicle.

Police Scotland needs £300 million in capital funding to bring its police stations and estate up to legal standards, he told the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

He also said some senior investigating officers have to deal with an ongoing case load of 100 rapes and sexual assault allegations.

But Scotland's Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf hit back, branding the suggestions "outrageous" and untrue.

Mr Yousaf, speaking at a conference fringe event, said: "If police officers are not paid in February, I will not just eat my own hat, I will eat every conference delegate's hat that is in this room.

“Because that just simply will not happen."

The comments by the federation come after Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone warned in August that the number of officers the force had was "not sustainable".

Mr Steele said the chief constable had warned 750 officers could be cut, and added: "That is before the doubts over an additional 300 officers that are currently funded by local authorities comes into it.

"If local authorities withdraw their funding for those 300 officers, Scotland will lose 1,000 police officers next year, unless there is a change in funding.

"At this point in time the police service of Scotland is going to run out of money and not be able to pay wages in February. That is the reality of what is facing the police service."

Mr Steele said that while Police Scotland is the second largest force in the UK – and covers the largest geographical area – it has the fifth smallest capital budget.

"The simple truth is we need round about £300 million in capital to bring our buildings and estate up to a legal standard," he said.

"We are currently spending less than half the money we need each year to maintain our vehicles.

"You think of the debilitating impact of being a police officer turning up to work, and the building you're working in is crumbling around you. You think of the demoralising effect of getting into a vehicle which is decrepit or falling apart.

"No point lauding green targets or reducing emissions if we're running around in sooty diesels that are barely able to be kept on the road.

"We have senior investigating officers in some parts of our country that are managing case loads on an ongoing basis of round about 100 rapes and sexual assaults. That is a ridiculous case load for senior investigating officers to be carrying.

"We have detectives that don't have access to cars, they don't have access to the technological support they require."

Mr Yousaf said he would "listen with an open mind" to requests from the police for additional capital funding, pointing out that Police Scotland received a 52 per cent increase last year.

He stressed the SNP administration in Edinburgh had "purposely taken a very different direction to the Tory Government in Westminster of the last decade", increasing officer numbers by more than 1,000 after it was first elected to power in 2007.

The Justice Secretary said: "Calum wouldn't be doing his job if he wasn't pressuring the Government for more funding and more finance, and he has every right to do that."

He also insisted he could not envisage Police Scotland having to reduce officer numbers by 750.

Mr Yousaf said numbers could not be reduced unless an increase in operational capacity could be demonstrated.

He concluded: "That has simply not been demonstrated, certainly not to the numbers suggested by Calum here today.

"I am very confident of this, certainly as far as I can see in the foreseeable future, there will not be a reduction of 750 officers. I do not envisage that happening."

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