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Police Scotland budget cuts leave the north at 'significant risk' particularly in 'remote and rural locations'

By Scott Maclennan

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Police Scotland officers are under pressure like never before.
Police Scotland officers are under pressure like never before.

Liberal Democrat councillors have raised the alarm that Police Scotland budget cuts are leaving communities at “significant risk as a result of response times, particularly in remote and rural locations”.

The warning comes as a motion to this week’s full council meeting – backed by six councillors representing Caithness, Ardersier, Inverness, Sutherland and Ross-shire – raise their concerns.

They say that, following a recent formal briefing about the Highland Policing Plan, cuts to the number of officers are now expected, coupled with overtime being slashed by half which is likely to leave scant cover across the north.

The motion states: “We were told that the Northern Division, as a result of budget cuts, will be losing nine officers from the Highlands and, on top of that, the overtime budget will be cut by 50 per cent, further reducing the availability of police officers across the region.

“The steady reduction in police numbers over a period of years since the introduction of Police Scotland has led to a serious lack of front-line police officers.

“For example, often we have been told that there are no officers on duty in large parts of the Highlands, with officers sent long distances to cover emergency calls.”

Citing a recent BBC documentary, it continued: “The recent Highland Cops programme on television highlighted the vast and unique geography of the Highland beat and the challenges faced by officers to provide an effective police service in the region.

"When the new Chief Superintendent gave a presentation to the council on his appointment, he made much of how the TV programme would help to recruit officers, however the reality is that rather than recruiting additional officers we are facing a reduction that will significantly impact the level of police availability on the ground.

"In addition due to the sheer size of the area and the ever reducing number of police officers, communities are not getting equitable access to police resources, resulting in a significant risk as a result of response times, particularly in remote and rural locations.

“While it is noted that police officers do a tremendous job given the very limited resources on hand, the policing model for the Highlands is clearly not fit for purpose.

“That being the case, this council calls upon the leader to write to the justice minister to insist that the proposed cuts to police numbers and overtime availability are cancelled and that a review of policing numbers is carried out as a matter of urgency.”

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