Call to reverse ‘extremely alarming’ drop in number of special constables

The number of special constables in Scotland has slumped, the Scottish Conservatives have said, with 971 fewer on the beat than almost a decade ago.

Feb 6, 2023
By PA Media

Police Scotland told the party, which asked for the figures in a Freedom of Information request, that there were 423 in the force as of September, compared with the 1,394 volunteering to keep their communities safe in 2014.

Jamie Greene, the Scottish Conservatives’ justice spokesman, called the drop “extremely alarming” and urged the Scottish government to urgently “reverse this ongoing and concerning downward trend”.

“Special constables play a hugely important role in engaging with communities across Scotland, all in their own time. They help to assist our officers in deterring crime and helping keep people safe,” he said.

“The fact that there are now almost 1,000 fewer special constables than there were nearly a decade ago has a direct impact on the operations of Police Scotland.

“It is clear the centralisation of Scotland’s police forces has meant the role of a special constable has become an increasingly diminished one.”

The number of special constables in Scotland has fallen in each of the past three years, the figures obtained by the party showed.

In March 2020 there were 520, 461 the year later, and then 423 on the beat in 2022.

The eight regional forces north of the border were merged into Police Scotland in 2013, and the number of special constables since 2014 has fallen by almost 70 per cent.

Mr Greene, MSP for West Scotland, said: “Combined with the SNP already overseeing the lowest number of salaried officers since 2008, this is yet further evidence that justice simply is not a priority for this SNP government.

“Keith Brown needs to urgently address these figures and outline a plan to encourage and increase the use of special constables in our communities and reverse this ongoing and concerning downward trend.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “We are committed to maintaining and enhancing our volunteer ranks and a Police Scotland Volunteer Strategy is in place, which allows us to identify opportunities to recruit more special constables and to ensure that our turnover is as low as possible.”

A Scottish government spokesman said north of the border there were more officers per person than in the rest of the UK.

“Policing remains a priority for the Scottish government and we value the work special constables do,” the spokesman said.

“While allocation of resources within Police Scotland is a matter for the chief constable, we remain fully committed to using the resources available to us to support the vital work of Police Scotland in delivering effective and responsive policing across Scotland.

“That’s why we will invest £1.45 billion in 2023/24 in our national force – an increase of 6.3 per cent.”

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