Police numbers show Scotland makes its own decisions better than Westminster

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By a Newsnet reporter

Figures published this week by Police Professional, the largest circulation weekly professional police journal, have graphically revealed the stark contrast between how policing is being managed by the Scottish and UK Governments.

As numbers of police officers in England and Wales tumble to new lows, where 16,000 police jobs are being cut, officer numbers in Scotland are at a record high which has helped push crime levels north of the border to a new 35-year low.

Humza Yousaf, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, said the figures underline how decisions for Scotland are best taken by those elected by the people of Scotland and not by Westminster – where anti-independence politicians are overseeing dramatic cuts in police numbers.

The latest quarterly strength statistics show that the number of police officers in Scotland has increased by 7.4 per cent between March 31, 2007 and March 31, 2012.  Figures published earlier this month show 1,202 officers extra officers from 31st March 2007, when the SNP were elected.

The latest figures show a stark contrast between the policies north and south of the border.  The latest data available for officer numbers in England and Wales shows a decrease of more than 6,000 between September 2010 and September 2011.

A further significant fall in police officer numbers in England and Wales is expected to be announced in data for service strength at March 2012, which is due to be released soon.

The sharp decline in officer numbers in England and Wales and the reforms to the police service being carried out by the Home Secretary, the Conservative Theresa May, led to the Home Secretary being heckled and booed by police officers when she spoke at the conference of the Police Federation earlier this year.

Police officers in England and Wales were especially angered by the so-called “Winsor package”, comprising a number of changes to police pay and conditions.

At the conference, Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, urged the Home Secretary to follow Scotland’s lead.

Mr McKeever said: “Not only do our Scottish colleagues have the support of their government, they have no Winsor, they have no professional body and no loss in police officers – but what they do have had is a fall in crime.”

In Scotland, police officers’ confidence in the Scottish government remains high.  Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill received a standing ovation when he addressed the Scottish Police Federation conference in March when he confirmed that the Scottish Government would have no truck with Westminster’s Winsor package.   

Mr Yousaf, SNP MSP for Glasgow, added:

“These figures, published by a leading journal, highlight how it is better for Scotland to make its own decisions rather than leave matters which have a direct impact on the people who live in Scotland in the hands of Westminster politicians.

“Last month Home Secretary Theresa May was heckled at the Police Federation conference, in stark contrast to the standing ovation Kenny MacAskill received at the Scottish Police Federation conference.

“Crime is at a 35 year low, fear of crime is down, the risk of being a victim of crime in Scotland is falling and is lower than in England and Wales.

“People are feeling safer in their communities and – despite the relentless scaremongering from opposition parties – these record police numbers underline how decisions for Scotland are best made by those elected by the people of Scotland.

“The Scottish Government’s record of delivery in health, justice, policing and education show an overwhelming case for Scotland taking charge of all matters of policy in Scotland.”