Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Calls to clarify police targets

Police officers
The number of Scots police officers reached a record high

Scottish ministers have come under renewed opposition pressure to clarify their pledge on police recruitment, in the wake of the latest figures.

Police numbers have risen by 441 since March 2007.

But rival parties said ministers may still fail to meet their promise of 1,000 extra officers by the next Holyrood elections, in 2011.

The Scottish Government said their pledge always meant it would provide an extra 1,000 officers in communities.

But Labour and the Tories said that should mean the overall force strength increasing by 1,000 - regardless of retirement.

In March 2009 - not even two years through our term - we've contributed the highest ever number of police officers Scotland ever had
Kenny MacAskill
Scottish justice secretary

New official statistics have shown the number of police officers in Scotland reached a record high of 16,675 at the end of 2008.

The Scottish Government said keeping people safe was what mattered.

Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken - whose party won a key concession from the Scottish Government on boosting police recruitment - has now written to ministers to say there were gaining an "unenviable reputation" for breaking promises.

Mr Aitken said: "The SNP must not fail on the long term delivery, because elsewhere they have created a soft-touch Scotland. Law-abiding Scots have suffered enough."

Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker demanded the justice secretary make a statement to parliament on the issue, adding: "Kenny MacAskill can bluster all he likes but the fact is, unless drastic action is taken then, the SNP are set to break another pledge.

"Until there are 17,236 officers in Scotland, the SNP manifesto promise remains unmet."

'Recruit and retain'

Mr MacAskill told BBC Scotland: "In March 2009 - not even two years through our term - we've contributed the highest ever number of police officers Scotland ever had in its history.

"That's something that we're celebrating, that's something that we're delivering on and it's work in progress."

He went on: "We committed to 1,000 additional officers and, in addition, we said we would recruit and retain as well as redeploy."

The figures showed numbers increased for the fourth quarter in a row, although the number of officers in three of Scotland's eight forces - Central Scotland, Tayside and and Dumfries and Galloway - fell slightly.

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