Funding Police Scotland – Taking money out of schools, social care and transport can’t be the answer.

The news that the Police in Edinburgh are now equipped with off-road motorbikes will be welcomed wholeheartedly  by those that live in parts of the city that have been  plagued by motorbike related crime and anti-social behaviour. The bikes will enable our hard working cops to go off-road to enter and patrol our public parks, paths and waste ground.

The only question I have about this is: Why is the Council funding the purchase of equipment that Police Scotland needs to fight crime? After all, since Police Scotland was formed in 2013 it has been directly funded by the Scottish Government. Nonetheless, in the current financial year the Council will take well over £2.5m out of money it should be spending on schools, social care and potholes to help fund Police Scotland.

Indeed, Edinburgh is paying this money despite having its budget cut by around 10% in recent years. We currently pay over ten times per head of population more than any other local authority. Despite that we have one of the highest crime rates in Scotland, and one of the lowest number of police per head of population. Unbelievably, Edinburgh pays more and gets less on policing than the rest of Scotland.

Police Scotland have been clear, however, that if Scotland’s Capital does not pay this “protection money” policing in Edinburgh will be cut. In March Police Scotland made this threat: “Where funding is removed by a local authority then resources are removed from that division, as has already occurred elsewhere”.

Audit Scotland have been clear, however, that Police Scotland’s use of resources “did not demonstrate value for money in the use of public funds”. Indeed, it was accused of spending public cash “like Monopoly money” when it was revealed they had handed out £18 million to an army of consultants. It was also reported that Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick was paid £67,000 as part of a “relocation package” – apparently she asked for it to be paid as a cash transfer. No wonder they want £2.5m from the Council!

I think Edinburgh’s cops should have all the tools they need to keep us safe, but the time has come to take a hard look at how Police Scotland is allocating resources to Scotland’s capital city. The SNP Government must fund them appropriately and they must spend the money wisely. Taking money out of schools, social care and transport can’t be the answer.

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