£100M More For Police To Tackle Terror

1 December 2015, 18:16 | Updated: 1 December 2015, 18:18

Police Scotland will receive an additional £100 million to combat terrorism but will not be given the flexibility senior officers have requested over police numbers, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Ms Sturgeon pledged to ensure "real-terms protection'' of the police budget following the Paris terror attacks, during a briefing to journalists at her Edinburgh residence.

But she said the SNP's manifesto commitment to maintain 1,000 more officers than it inherited will not be reviewed, after Police Scotland's most senior officer asked for more flexibility over numbers.

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson confirmed police officers are "backfilling'' jobs once done by back room staff, and said more staff cuts are on the horizon.

Ms Sturgeon also rebuffed calls from the Scottish Police Federation for more trained officers to be routinely carrying their weapons in public.

Police Scotland will receive an £18 million uplift in next year's budget - but it is understood this will have no impact on the £25 million shortfall in this year's finances.

Police staff union Unison said Police Scotland apparently has "no real strategy'' on how to bridge the shortfall by April 2016 and criticised plans to cut more staff.

Ms Sturgeon said: "We remain in very close dialogue with Police Scotland to ensure that they have the capacity and the capability to deal with a Paris-type attack should, God forbid, such a type of attack happen here in Scotland.

"In two weeks, John Swinney will set out our budget for the next year, and due to the content of the Chancellor's spending review last week that is a budget that will involve difficult choices.

"However, given the security situation that we face I am confirming today that the police budget will be protected.

"We will increase the revenue budget of the Scottish Police Authority in real terms in order to deliver that protection.

"We will do so for next year, and if we are re-elected in May we intend to continue that real-terms protection in every year of the next parliament.

"Over the course of the next parliament, that will be an additional resource for the Scottish police budget of £100 million.''

Earlier, Mr Richardson was asked by Holyrood's Justice Committee whether the SNP should review its 1,000 extra officers pledge.

He said: "I absolutely want as much flexibility as I can. I think the debate is in the wrong place.''

He added: "The issue about numbers has become quite unhelpful and sets in the minds of community members that the measure of success is how many police officers are permanently deployed.

"The reality is we do need to find a balanced workforce... and you have to find what is the best asset that you need to bring in. Is it support staff, or is it a warranted officer?''

But Ms Sturgeon told journalists: "Our commitment is to retain 1,000 extra police officers on the streets.

"I think that has been important for the duration of that commitment, and I think particularly given the security concerns that are faced now in Scotland, the UK and across Europe, that commitment remains important.''

Last week, Calum Steele, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said Police Scotland needs more trained officers routinely carrying their weapons in public - but stopped short of calling for a fully armed force at this time.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I think the situation that we have just now in terms of the arming of police officers is the right one.

"We have a situation where we have a number of officers that are trained to bear firearms. Those that are bearing firearms don't go to routine calls.

"If something happens right in front of them they will contribute to dealing with that, but they are on duty to respond to incidents involving firearms or a threat to life.

"I think that is the right situation to have.

"Do I think we should have routine arming of police officers? No, I don't.

"So I am of the view that the arrangements that we have right now are the right ones.

"That said, given the changing nature of the terrorist threat and the significant change to many of the assumptions that were made as a result of Paris, we have always got to make sure that the police planning is reviewed and kept up to date in response to changing circumstances.

"I am confident that police here in Scotland are doing that.''