Police Scotland numbers at highest level since 2017

Police officers Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The number of police officers in Scotland has increased over the first three months of 2019

The number of police officers in Scotland has risen to its highest level since the end of 2017.

Figures published by the Scottish government show there were 17,251 officers in the national force at the end of March.

This represents an increase of 77 on the previous quarter.

The numbers reflect the force's decision to accelerate recruitment to deal with any uncertainty caused by the Brexit process.

It means there are more than 1,000 officers over the total inherited by the SNP when it took office in 2007, although the party's commitment to maintain that has now been dropped.

In January Chief Constable Iain Livingstone told the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) up to 400 Scottish police officers could be deployed to deal with the consequences of Brexit.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Iain Livingstone said his force needed more funding to help with the additional demands that might be caused by Brexit

Mr Livingstone said the force - the second biggest in the UK after the Metropolitan Police - had contingency plans in place based on a "reasonable worst case scenario".

Compared to the end of March last year the force has 81 extra officers.

Since March 2007, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers in Scotland has risen by 1,017 from a total of 16,234.

But the numbers are lower than the high of almost 17,500 FTE officers who were employed at the start of 2013.

The Scottish Government allocated more than £1.2bn in its budget for policing in 2019/20.

'Detrimental impact'

A 3.7% increase in the SPA's budget is expected to bring an additional £42.3m to the service.

In February, a letter was sent by the Scottish government to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, calling for any additional costs related to the policing of Brexit to fall to the UK government.

Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham said: "Police officer numbers in Scotland remain significantly above the level in 2007 - in comparison to a drop of 20,000 officers in England and Wales.

"This most recent increase reflects Police Scotland's additional recruitment of officers in February to prepare for a range of Brexit-related contingencies.

"Ministers have been clear that any costs related to EU exit should not have a detrimental impact on Scotland's public finances and should be met by the UK Government in full."

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