Police in Scotland are having to tackle a rise in cyber crime with “one hand tied behind their back”, it has been claimed.
It comes as official statistics indicate a rise in online crime by 60% since 2018/2019.
In a Police Scotland performance report, the rise is attributed in parts to the increasing reliance on technology as part of people’s everyday lives, as well as to the increased reliance on the internet during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report noted that whilst victims may reside in Scotland, many of the frauds are perpetuated from outside of the UK.
It stated that this makes enforcement and investigation much more challenging for law enforcement.
Police Scotland also outlined “limited resource locally” to effectively tackle fraud.
The main increase relating to online crime has been fraud, with an increase of 77.5% on the five-year average.
It rose by 30.1% in the first half of the current financial year when compared to the same period in 2020/2021.
The Scottish Conservatives have raised concerns over the increase in online offences and have called for an increase in Police Scotland capital investment.
The party’s justice spokesman Jamie Greene MSP said: “This huge rise in online crime is deeply concerning.
“Cyber criminals target the most vulnerable in society, such as children and the elderly. When our loved ones go online, it is essential that we feel confident that they will be safe from criminals.
“Police Scotland recognise the scale of the problem, but they are being asked to tackle it with one hand tied behind their back, because they are not getting the resources they need from the SNP Government.”
He continued: “The Scottish Conservatives called for a £36.5m increase in Police Scotland capital investment – which includes investment in IT – in the recent Scottish Budget.
“But the police were badly let down by the SNP, who actually cut funding in real terms.”
The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.
Chief Inspector Anton Stephenson said: “Police Scotland, in conjunction with our trusted partners within the Cyber Scotland Partnership is engaged with our communities through regular liaison with public sector bodies, private sector businesses and voluntary sector organisations.
“Our priority is to lead and support the ongoing work of ensuring a cyber resilient Scotland. This is achieved through a variety of targeted interactions with our communities, ensuring that citizens are aware of emerging and ongoing cyber threats.
“These interactions occur daily throughout the calendar year, culminating in an intensive period of activity during the annual Cyber Scotland Week, which next occurs between February 28 and March 6 2022.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The revenue allocation outlined will enable policing to continue to set a balanced budget into 2022-23 and we welcome the support for this important stability.
“Policing requires capital investment to drive improvements and efficiencies to better enable officers and staff to serve the public.
“The capital allocation detailed will not allow policing to progress all our plans and we will prioritise available funding carefully.”