Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 09:14 UK

Police funding row statement due

Police officers
Ministers pledged 1,000 additional police officers

Scottish ministers will make a statement to Holyrood after claims civil servants are attempting to "call the shots" on police funding.

Grampian Police Chief Constable Colin McKerracher said he was told cash would be withheld if forces missed targets to maintain increased levels of officers.

The government said it was committed to boosting police numbers by 1,000 and provided specific funding to do so.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will address MSPs on the issue.

The row began after Mr McKerracher told the Herald newspaper that, during a meeting, civil servants were told that budget restraints meant police forces could have to cut officer numbers.

Officer numbers

Mr McKerracher said civil servants had threatened to withhold money if recruitment targets were not met.

A statement from Chief Constable Patrick Shearer, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), said the civil servants had been offering "advice" on the government's position.

Mr Shearer, who is also chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, said police officers were concerned about their ability to maintain officer numbers, currently at almost 17,300, in the face of looming budget cuts.

He added: "While the Scottish government has provided full funding for these officers, it is fair to say that chief officers are concerned about the sustainability of these numbers in the light of anticipated budget cuts across all public services, arising out of the global financial situation."

Mr Shearer said the issue of "scaling back" on some officer recruitment was discussed when police chiefs met the government earlier this year.

The Acpos president said this course of action was "firmly rejected" by the justice secretary.

Mr MacAskill stated strongly that funding was in place and he fully expected forces to recruit the 1,000 additional officers promised by the SNP in their manifesto.

But Mr Shearer said: "Civil servants acting in their official capacity and in support of the minister, advised that the funding had been made available specifically for the purpose of enhancing front line policing services."

The Scottish government said its commitment to 1,000 additional police officers at the end of the current parliament was "very clear", saying it had already paid for 801 officers and was providing funding for 201 more to be recruited in 2010-11.

Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats raised concern that the SNP was using the issue to wage political war, when protecting communities was the top priority.



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