Police Scotland defends position after new figures show decrease in Tayside officer numbers

Police Scotland has defended its position after new figures show that the number of community Tayside officers has decreased since it formed a decade ago.

The latest Police Officer Quarterly Strength Statistics, published by the Scottish Government, show that local ‘divisional’ officers – the core local resource who patrol streets and respond to calls – has dropped from 968 in 2013 to 933 on December 31, 2021 – a decrease of 35.

The number of police officers in Scotland overall has also hit its lowest level since the formation of Police Scotland.

The latest statistics show that as of December 31, 2021 there were 17,117 full-time equivalent police officers across Scotland.

Twelve out of 13 local divisions have fewer of these officers since Police Scotland was first created, with a total cut of 643 officers across Scotland since 2013, when Scotland’s police force merged.

The numbers exclude specialist officers who are shared by different divisions – with Tayside division having 3402 available officers in total.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith called the latest figures “alarming”.

“Community safety, tackling of anti-social behaviour, addressing rural crime, road safety on routes such as the A9 and A85 all require active policing,” she said.

“It is alarming to see statistics that show since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013 there has been a decrease in officers in Tayside from 35.

“That figure is part of a far wider picture across Scotland which puts pressure on existing officers and means that local policing efforts become more challenging.

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“In conversations with local officers I know how determined they are to do a good job, to keep our communities safer and to tackle crime across Perth and Kinross.

“The Scottish Government must face up to the issues frontline officers are facing and to listen to those who represent officers in discussion with the government.

“I certainly will do all I can to raise this matter within the Scottish Parliament.”

In response, chief superintendent Phil Davison, divisional commander for Tayside, said: “Our commitment is to ensure that we have appropriate resources in place throughout the division to keep the public safe and respond to any incidents that arise.

“The nature of frontline policing has gone beyond a uniformed officer on the street and there is now a greater need to have police officers working in specialist roles to tackle the growing issue of online criminality.

“I am satisfied that we have the necessary officer numbers to provide a visible policing presence in our communities, while also dedicating resources to investigate serious and organized crime, cybercrime, and the abuse of children and vulnerable people.

“If, however, we require further support, we are able to call upon additional or specialist assistance from across the Police Scotland cadre.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson added the publication shows Police Scotland recruitment “continues to be strong”, claiming officer numbers in Scotland are in fact significantly up from 2007.

“It is normal for officer numbers to fluctuate and the current figures were impacted by use of the Police Scotland training college as a base for UK officers during COP26, as well as the ongoing impact of coronavirus restrictions,” they added.

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“The next intake of approximately 300 officers is due to commence their training in April this year, subject to the pandemic.

“Despite UK Government austerity we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17 and have invested more than £10 billion in policing since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013.

“Officers numbers are favorable relative to elsewhere in the UK with around 32 officers per 10,000 population in Scotland compared to around 23 officers per 10,000 population in England and Wales.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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