Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice
Scottish Parliament, 20 June 2017
Thank you Presiding Officer.
When the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland launched the consultation on their ten year Policing 2026 Strategy, I committed to update Parliament following the consultation and once the revised ten year Strategy had been submitted to me for approval.
The final Strategy was laid before this Parliament earlier today.
This is the first time a ten year strategy has been developed for policing in Scotland. It was finalised following wide ranging consultation and engagement which has demonstrated strong support for the key elements of the Strategy.
I am happy to endorse the vision set out in Policing 2026.
The merger of ten police organisations into a single police service has not been without challenges, but through commitment and professionalism of officers and staff much has been achieved.
Savings have released resources to focus on service delivery. Public confidence in the police remains strong and recorded crime is at a 42-year low.
HMICS Derek Penman recognised in his last annual report that Police Scotland is better prepared than legacy forces to meet the operational challenges ahead.
The last few weeks have underlined the changing nature of the threats which we ask our police service to address.
We experienced a global cyber-attack on 21 May and we have seen cowardly terrorist attacks on the streets of London, and on children and young people at a pop concert in Manchester.
Police forces and their emergency services colleagues, across the UK respond heroically in the face of these attacks and we all appreciate their work.
A single Police service has strengthened access across Scotland’s communities to specialist policing capabilities, including firearms capabilities.
This, coupled with the decision to increase the numbers of firearms officers in Scotland, has ensured that Scotland is well prepared to respond.
Over the last few weeks Police Scotland have provided assurances that they are fully supported to lead our fight against terrorism. We will keep this under constant review.
It is by interacting with communities and being trusted by them that we will prevent further attacks from taking place.
I welcome the emphasis in the Strategy on strengthening Police Scotland’s cyber capability and capacity, including recruiting more civilian cyber-specialists to counter the threat posed by cyber-attacks like the one we saw in May.
The Strategic Policing Priorities capture the public’s expectation of our police service. To deliver on these expectations, the Strategy focuses on five key areas- protection, prevention, communities, knowledge and innovation.
Police Scotland is a national service, but policing is delivered locally. I welcome the Strategy’s commitment to building on Police Scotland’s already strong community relations.
I believe it is those strong community links and the increase in frontline policing capacity to be delivered by the Strategy which will further improve public confidence in the police.
The Strategy also recognises that demands in policing are increasingly focused towards addressing issues of vulnerability.
Police Scotland is one of the first police services in the UK to implement mandatory mental health and suicide intervention training for all officers, up to and including the rank of Inspector.
As part of 2026 implementation, Police Scotland will change how vulnerability is assessed at first contact and beyond, enabling the police service and its partners to respond in a way that best meets the needs of vulnerable service users.
This complements the ambition in the Scottish Government’s 10 year Mental Health Strategy. We have committed to increasing the mental health workforce in key areas, including working within Police Scotland, with £35 million of additional investment over the next five years for 800 extra workers.
These are the commitments of a Government and police service which sees the police as a vital, trusted and reassuring cornerstone of our society.
I welcome Police Scotland’s commitment to maintain officer numbers in 2017-18 for the seventh year in a row since we met our target of 1,000 extra police officers in 2011.
In Policing 2026 the Chief Constable has made his assessment of the shape of the workforce and the skills needed to meet future demands.
He proposes a workforce model that will increase operational policing capacity by freeing up officers from support work and recruit more expert police staff to tackle new threats such as online fraud and cyber attacks.
His conclusion is that this will allow Police Scotland to slow the recruitment of police officers in the longer term, whilst continuing to improve the service to the public and building the capability and flexibility needed to respond to our changing society.
However, I am absolutely clear that no decision must be taken to slow police officer recruitment until there is evidence that the planned increase in operational policing capacity has been delivered.
I have asked HMICS Derek Penman to work with the SPA and Police Scotland to develop a robust methodology to supply this evidence and to provide strong scrutiny and assurance around delivery of increased operational capacity. Police Scotland and the SPA must demonstrate that additional capacity is being delivered before police officer recruitment is slowed.
The Chief Constable will continue to review Police Scotland’s capacity and capability in the context of any new and emerging threats.
The plans Police Scotland have set out up to 2019-20 show the number of police officers will remain well above the number we inherited in 2007, something I remain strongly committed to. Any proposals beyond three years must be subject to full consultation when Police Scotland refreshes its Strategy for 2020 onwards.
Policing 2026 is clear that the SPA and Police Scotland are working to a three year plan to deliver financial sustainability.
To support Police Scotland’s work, this government has committed to protecting the police resource budget in real terms in every year of this Parliament – a boost of £100 million by 2021.
We have committed a further £61 million in 2017-18 to support the delivery of Policing 2026.
And I continue to press the UK Government to address the glaring VAT disparity which has already cost Scotland’s police and fire services £140 million, and could increase to a total of £280 million by the end of the current Parliamentary session.
The 2026 programme is ambitious and challenging. Clear governance and the effectiveness of the SPA in supporting and holding Police Scotland to account for delivery will be crucial to its success.
Decision making must be open and transparent, with service improvement driven through collaboration with partners, communities, officers and staff.
As Cabinet Secretary for Justice, I will take a close interest in how the Strategy is being delivered.
Over the next couple of months, I expect the SPA and Police Scotland to develop robust Implementation and Financial Plans which demonstrate how they will work towards a sustainable and effective service that delivers the ambitions in Policing 2026.
I also know that the public, and Parliament, expect strong governance and accountability in policing and the SPA and HMICS must work together to play a vital role in oversight of implementation, particularly on providing additional assurance that the increase in operational capacity is delivering improvements.
I want to end by talking about the police officers and staff all over Scotland who protect us all. We ask many of those men and women to do things, and take risks, which few have the courage to do.
This Strategy is focussed on making their jobs more rewarding, to allow them to better use their time protecting the public and to strengthening our communities.
Police Scotland and the SPA must work hand-in-hand with their workforce - and its representatives - to support and energise them to realise this change.