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Police Scotland chief warns of officer cuts

Scottish Police will get more funding but it may not be enough to prevent job cuts, their Chief Constable has warned.

Scotland’s finance secretary has delivered a budget that will give Police Scotland an extra £60m. But Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, has told MSPs that it may not be enough to prevent a reduction in the number of officers.

He told the Public Audit Committee that the force was facing multiple challenges including policing the UN climate summit in November and uncertainties linked to Brexit.

Who pays the projected £250m bill for policing the UN climate change summit COP26 in November has yet to be agreed between the English and Scottish governments.

CC Livingstone added that the force will run a deficit again this year – meaning the Scottish government will have to raid another departmental budget.

The final Budget will be put to a vote on 5 March.

CC Livingstone said: “We still don't truly know the consequences of the exit from the European Union", with the UK's Brexit transition period due to conclude at the end of this year.

He added: “We can start, if necessary and if appropriate, to reduce the number of police officers so we have got the right mix and through that achieve the financial sustainability that we all seek."

The committee had already been warned by the Scottish Police Authority “that it will continue to need additional financial support from the Scottish Government”.

But David Crichton, vice-chairman of the SPA, said the force would have to set a workforce plan so that better preparations could be made to meet future demand.

He said: “Unless and until we have a better understanding of the future demands on policing, the areas for productivity improvement, the expected costs of policing and the right skills mix, that is the sort of thing a workforce plan will produce. It actually makes it very difficult without that."

The Scottish Police Federation warned the settlement amounted to a holding position and there were still problems that needed to be resolved.

Vice Chair David Hamilton told Police Oracle: "Of course the £60m is welcome but there's still a structural deficit in Police Scotland. it takes the pressure off us; there's enough money to sustain the number of officers and stops the deficit from getting wider."

But he added: "The risk is there are 300 officers funded by local authorities which ar under pressure. They could unilaterally cut budgets. It's not a good situation to be in."

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