Almost 1,000 fewer special constables on the beat than a decade ago

Data shows 409 special constables were in the force in 2022-23, compared to 1,394 in 2013-14 – a fall of 985.

Almost 1,000 fewer special constables on the beat in Scotland than a decade ago, data shows iStock

Police Scotland’s special constabulary is heading for “extinction”, the Scottish Liberal Democrats warn as figures show there are almost 1,000 fewer officers on the beat than a decade ago.

Data provided to the party shows 409 special constables were in the force in 2022-23, compared to 1,394 in 2013-14 – a fall of 985.

The number has fallen each year except in 2019-20.

Meanwhile, there were just 32 special constables trained in 2022-23 compared to 90 almost a decade ago.

The special constabulary is trained to the same standard as regular officers, however it operates on a volunteer basis.

Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said the figures are particularly concerning after Police Scotland announced a pilot initiative which will see crimes with “no associated risk, harm or vulnerability” not investigated by officers in the north east.

He said: “On the SNP’s watch, the special constabulary is heading for extinction.

“At a time when the police are piloting programmes that will see some crimes go uninvestigated, you might think they could use all the help they could get. Sadly, a role with a proud history is being allowed to wither on the vine.

“Officers and staff are under huge pressure. On their next shift they could be facing major incidents or dealing with complex mental health cases. That makes it all the more important to ensure they have the support they need.

“The SNP Government must now repair the damage done by its botched centralisation.

“That includes putting the special constabulary on a long-term footing and ensuring officers and staff have the resources they need to tackle crime and keep people safe.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We value the service provided by special constables to keep our communities safe and note their recruitment and deployment is an operational matter for the chief constable.

“Policing is a priority for this Government. That is why our draft Budget for 2024-25 includes £1.55bn for policing – a rise of £92.7m.

“Scotland has more police officers per head of population than England and Wales and our officers continue to be the best paid at all levels. Our Budget commitment will allow Police Scotland to restart officer recruitment next year.”

Assistant Chief Constable Emma Bond said: “Special constables have the same warranted powers as their full-time colleagues and play a vital role for Police Scotland in supporting operational deployments, major events and day-to-day policing duties.

“Joining the special constabulary provides individuals with a range of varied and useful skills and life experience. Using what they have learned as a special constable, many have gone on to join the service as full-time police officers. Others have capitalised on their skill set development to seek employment advancement elsewhere.

“Our volunteers base sits at around 1,300, with the Police Scotland youth volunteers providing a valuable role within their communities, however we are committed to improving and growing the special constabulary, recognising its valuable contribution to community safety and policing in Scotland.”

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