SNP disgraced as Humza Yousaf issued life or death warning over police cuts

Humza Yousaf has been warned that “people may die” due to SNP funding cuts for police.

David Kennedy, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, told 1919 magazine that funding and officer cuts could lead to more incidents such as the M9 tragedy – when two people were found three days after dying in a car crash in Stirling despite police being called immediately.

Officer numbers are at their lowest since Police Scotland was created a decade ago. It is feared a further 600 frontline jobs could be lost.

Mr Kennedy said: “The reality is we have a lack of officers.

“All we can do is keep highlighting it and saying to the public that any notion that policing will remain the same and will remain as safe as it has been is just not going to happen.

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“People need to realise that, and the government needs to realise that. We might see more M9 cases appearing where people actually die, because that’s the harsh reality if there are not enough police officers to get to calls that they are meant to attend. People may die.”

As part of a project to give officers more time to focus on responding to emergencies, some minor crimes will no longer be investigated.

Mr Kennedy said that the strain on resources means police staff on probation end up going out together instead of with more senior officers.

Following the creation of Police Scotland in 2013, there were 17,324 officers in post with the SNP promising this would always be the minimum. But since 2021, this number has fallen by more than 600.

And it has emerged that financial pressure means the force may need to cut 600 officers and 200 staff at the start of 2024, potentially closing 30 police stations.

He added: “It has a massive impact on cops because they just want to do their job and they will try their utmost to do their job but they’re at the point now where they’re so overstretched they can’t do their job. We’ve tried to tell officers they need to try and do the job but when you take on too much, that’s when mistakes get made.

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“It’s bleak. If the Scottish Government properly funded the police service then it wouldn’t be bleak, but they are choosing not to.”

Supporting Mr Kennedy’s argument was the Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, Russell Findlay MSP, who said: “SNP ministers have arrogantly ignored repeated and explicit public statements from Police Scotland’s most senior figures about the devastating impact of their decisions.

“But Humza Yousaf surely cannot ignore this stark life-or-death warning from rank-and-file officers who are paying the price of severe and sustained SNP cuts. The First Minister needs to start listening and ensure that the national force is given the required resources to keep people safe. He should start by agreeing to the Scottish Conservative commitment to hire 1,000 extra officers.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Police officers perform an essential role keeping Scotland’s communities safe which is why the Scottish Government is investing £1.45 billion in policing in 2023/24, despite difficult financial circumstances caused by UK Government austerity.

“There are over 350 more officers than in 2007 and around 1,480 new recruits have joined Police Scotland in the last 18 months. Scotland also continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales.”

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