Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has claimed the draft Scottish budget is “short-changing” the police service.
In his opening First Minister’s Questions since taking permanent control of the party, Mr Carlaw told Nicola Sturgeon the settlement sent to Police Scotland would not be enough, echoing letters sent from senior officers and representatives.
Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) have all written to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing to voice their discontent at the settlement.
Ms Sturgeon said the Tories had “a cheek” to raise issues of underfunding due to the austerity imposed by the UK Government since 2010.
The First Minister also said the Scottish Government was open to listening to “credible proposals” made by opposition parties on changes to the budget – which she said the Tories have yet to do.
Ms Sturgeon said David Page, a deputy chief officer at Police Scotland, had “welcomed” an increase in resource funding – with the force given £17 million more than expected.
But Mr Page said in the same letter that “the 2020-21 draft budget continues the long-term trend of Police Scotland being structurally underfunded”.
Mr Carlaw said: “It’s quite clear that neither she nor her Government have come anywhere close to meeting the budget allocation that front-line officers and the SPA believe is needed to ensure a sustainable policing service.
The First Minister said: “Jackson Carlaw is the representative of a party in the rest of the UK that cut police numbers by 20,000. So I think he should reflect on that.
“I would remind the chamber that the Tories have presided over a real-terms cut of the Scottish budget over the last decade of £1.5 billion.”
Mr Carlaw said the Scottish Government was in line for a £96 million funding boost in Barnett consequentials, asking: “Why is (Ms Sturgeon) short-changing Scotland’s police officers?”
The First Minister responded: “The draft budget increases Police Scotland’s budget by £42 million.
“If you look at the capital budget, in 2016-17, Police Scotland’s capital budget was £20 million.
“In the draft budget that was just published it was £40 million. In other words it has doubled in the space of a couple of years.”
In his letter to the sub-committee, Mr Page states the capital budget will mean there will be “no new change improvement activity” due to a lack of funding, including the roll out of body worn cameras and mobile devices to all officers.
Mr Page said Police Scotland made the Scottish Government aware of the need for at least £74 million in capital spending in 2020-21 last summer, saying the increased funding pot would allow “the transformation necessary to complete on the ambition of police reform and to enable Scotland to have a police service fit for the 21st century”.
Budget negotiations are ongoing, with the final passage of the Bill expected on March 5.