Police Scotland officer numbers down after merger

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The number of police officers in Scotland has fallen since the new single force came into being.

The eight regional forces merged into Police Scotland on 1 April 2013 and official statistics show there were 172 officers fewer three months later.

The figure of 17,324 officers was also down 49 (0.3%) from April 2012.

But the Scottish government said it had maintained its pledge to put at least 1,000 more officers onto the streets than when it came into office in 2007.

The quarterly strength statistics are the first to be published since Police Scotland came into being - and do not offer a regional breakdown.

Work is continuing to harmonise data held by the previous forces to enable Police Scotland to be able to publish regional figures in the future.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said police numbers always fluctuate - but the current number is 6.7% higher than March 2007.

He said: "This government has kept its promise to protect police posts - in direct contrast to England and Wales, where police numbers have fallen to their lowest level in 11 years."

'Backroom bobbies'

Scottish Labour's Graeme Pearson said: "As a former senior police officer, I know that despite the rhetoric from Kenny MacAskill, many of Scotland's officers aren't patrolling the streets of our communities but are sitting behind desks, having become backroom bobbies.

"Chief Constable House has warned that there will be more job cuts to come. You don't need to be a cynic to know that the bulk of these cuts will happen after the referendum next year.

"Scotland deserves better. With closure plans for police stations being drawn up, increasingly we see a police service which is facing some of the deepest cuts ever."

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "It's disappointing the numbers have fallen since the creation of Police Scotland.

"This cannot be allowed to become a trend, but it's telling that we're now at the lowest level since mid-2011."

He added: "The Scottish government needs to explain why these figures have decreased, and what it intends to do to make sure this doesn't have an impact on crime and public safety."

Scottish Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes said: "The justice secretary's mantra of a thousand extra police officers doesn't fool many of us.

"It is difficult to find cause for celebration in this claim when in reality hundreds of civilian staff have been made redundant, and police officers are having to cover more back room jobs."

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