18 April | 18:11:49
 
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SNP finally responds to police crisis
Government enlists 500 new officers after mounting criticism over police recruitment
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Sunday, 18 November, 2007 | 23:50
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Scottish police forces are to be granted an extra £54m by the Scottish Executive to spend on recruiting 500 new police officers. The funding follows recent criticism of the Scottish government's failure to act upon its manifesto pledge to hire 1000 extra new officers.

Kenny MacAskill, Justice Secretary, said that the extra recruitment budget would be in addition to a general increase in police spending.

Talking to community police officers while on a trip to Alloa, Mr MacAskill explained: "We have made a clear commitment to deliver a more visible policing presence on Scotland's streets. An additional 1,000 officers available in our communities.

"We shall do that through increased recruitment of new officers, improved retention of skilled and experienced officers, and redeployment of officers to front line task. The first step of this work will be the recruitment of 500 new officers.

"At least 150 more officers will be recruited in the current financial year, with the balance to follow across the lifetime of this Parliament."

The Justice Secretary said before the announcement, "This is not simply about numbers on the payroll, it is about ensuring a genuine improvement in how policing is delivered in our communities."

The SNP has come under fierce attack from both political opposition parties and police forces themselves for its management of Scotland's police forces.

Joe Grant, head of the Scottish Police Federation, said in October that the SNP's manifesto pledge was to bring in 1000 new officers, and expressed worry that ministers had said that police numbers would be increased by "the equivalent" of 1000 officers.

Mr Grant believed that the pledge had been based on recruitment of new officers, not on retaining or redeploying existing officers.

When the plans were announced in April 2007 for up to 1,500 new police officers to be recruited, they were branded "a joke" by Scottish Conservative leader, Annabel Goldie.

It was recently revealed that the Scottish government had set no "numerical target" for police recruitment.

In response to a Scottish Labour parliamentary question, Mr MacAskill said: "The Scottish government has not set a numerical target for the number of police officers that forces should employ."

He did add that recruitment would be "substantial".

The statement came just as the Scottish Police Federation claimed that less than 10 per cent of Scottish police officers were actually on the beat, with others in court, doing paperwork, or resting.

The Scottish Police Federation also published a study in September 2007 which claimed that, per capita, 20 per cent more was spent on policing in England than in Scotland.

The SNP's response to the growing crisis over policing in Scotland comes as high profile criticisms were aired by leading police chiefs.

The outgoing head of Scotland's leading crime agency criticised staff shortages and unnecessary red tape as he left his post two years early.

Graeme Pearson, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency's former director general, told BBC Scotland that the group, which deals with drug trafficking and organised crime, was hampered by bureaucracy. He said: "The shortage of staff, which we have the money to pay for, has been difficult to manage."

The Scottish Police Service Authority and the Scottish Police Federation clashed over proposed reforms for the police in Scotland.

The SPSA argued that non-police officers could be tasked with taking witness statement and carrying out door-to-door inquiries, while the SPF disagreed and called on the government to boost recruitment.

Scottish ministers have been backing what is known as the "civilianisation" of certain duties.

It has also been recently revealed that Scottish police academies do have the capacity train new recruits, through they remain under-strength.
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