Humza Yousaf has been challenged to “step up” and protect policing in Scotland after the number of officers reached its lowest level for more than 15 years.
The Scottish Tories issued the challenge in the wake of figures from the Scottish Government which showed that as of December 31, 2023 Police Scotland had 16,363 full-time equivalent (FTE) officers.
That total is 250 down from the end of September last year and is 282 fewer than it was at the end of 2022.
Police numbers are now at the lowest they have been since the second quarter of 2008, when there were 16,339 FTE officers across Scotland.
But with the SNP having pledged to increase officer numbers by 1,000 in the 2007 election campaign, numbers rose to more than 17,000 during the first three months of 2009, and did not fall below this until the first quarter of 2022.
The Conservatives hit out at the Scottish Government after the fall in police numbers, accusing ministers of a “failure to protect officer numbers”, with party justice spokesperson Russell Findlay calling on the First Minister to act.
Findlay said: “Scotland’s hard-working police officers and crime-scarred communities are paying the price for the neglectful SNP Government’s failure to protect officer numbers.
“Fewer police on our streets puts communities at increased risk from crime and heaps more pressure on officers who feel undervalued and unsupported.
“Humza Yousaf must step up to protect our police force.”
Justice Secretary Angela Constance however stressed Scotland has a higher number of officers per person than forces south of the border.
Constance said: “Despite deeply challenging financial circumstances, our budget for next year includes record police funding of £1.55bn – an increase of £92.7m.
“The chief constable (Jo Farrell) has confirmed that this investment will enable Police Scotland to restart recruitment before the end of next month.
“Scotland continues to have more police officers per head of population than England and Wales and recorded crime is at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974.”
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