Alarm at sharp drop in number of Scottish special constables

The number of special constables serving with Police Scotland has fallen by nearly two thirds since it became a single force.

Dec 30, 2019
By Tony Thompson

Police Scotland was established in April 2013, merging the country’s eight regional forces into one service. There were 1,394 volunteer officers serving with the force in 2013/14 but the figure for 2018/19 is just 505, according to data obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The party’s justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “We are told that the history of the Special Constabulary is ‘long and impressive’, but at the current trajectory it will soon vanish altogether.

“The national force has lost almost 200 special constables a year on average, but trained just 50 last year. We’re asking more than ever of the police, but this hasn’t been matched in the resources they are given to deal with issues such as mental health.

“Now we know back-up is being eroded too. Special constables are a valuable community asset and boost the police’s presence in communities, relieving some of the pressure.”

He added: “The national force must now get on with the staff survey, protect the future of the Special Constabulary and give officers the resources they need to do their jobs.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While we value the voluntary service provided by special constables to keep our communities safe, their recruitment and deployment is an operational matter for the chief constable.

A Scottish Police Authority spokesperson added: “Clearly there is a place for special constables in the rich mix of individuals who contribute to policing in Scotland. What is required in 2020 is more substantive progress by Police Scotland in developing an overall strategic workforce plan to ensure that we have the right mix of officers and staff, employees and volunteers, and in the right places to meet the needs of a changing Scotland.”

Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Alan Wright said: “A significant number of people (more than 500) have left the specials since April 2013 to become full-time officers and have either used the role as a valuable opportunity to gain experience or realised that they want to pursue a career in policing.

“We also actively recruit – and are keen to recruit even more – specials who volunteer in addition to their day job and can bring a wealth of life experience and skills to Police Scotland. Recruitment campaigns and events are regularly run throughout the year to encourage people to consider becoming a special constable, with work is well under way to launch a national campaign in January encouraging more people to consider it as a long-term volunteering opportunity.”

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