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Tue 28 February 2012

UNISON warns staff jobs cuts could lead to scandal of 2,000 police officers taken off street

Police staff union UNISON has warned the Scottish Parliament that plans for a new unified force could result in 2,000 police officers taken off front line crime fighting.

UNISON’s Dave Watson told the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee today (Tuesday 28 February) that hundreds of police officers are now substituting for some of the thousand staff posts that have already been cut in the last year. The plan of police chiefs to meet government savings for the new force by cutting thousands more vital support staff can only result in the public scandal of hundreds or even thousands more police officers being taken off the streets.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, told MSPs:
“We are already getting substitution of police staff jobs by police officers, as a result of the loss of about 1,000 police staff jobs in the past year or so. This is happening now, even before the  new force.  And the threat of two or even three thousand further police staff jobs cut means it can only get worse.

“We have just completed a survey of our membership – which shows that something like 53% of police staff posts which have already gone are being covered in part or in full by police officers.

“That means around 500 police officers are now not out on the street fighting crime. If you extrapolate this to the future it would suggest as many as 2,000 officers could be taken off the street.

“One officer off the street would be too many – 2,000 is clearly a scandal.”

Dave Watson said:
“This is hugely expensive – but it is not just about cost, it’s about specific skills. The world has moved on since the 1980s. Crime and policing have become more complex. We need the skills of police staffs to enable police officers to do the job the public wants them to do, where they want them to do it – that is fighting crime, out on the streets.

 “Scotland is already behind modern best practice in England and Wales. The Stewart report on ‘Civilianisation of Police in Scotland’ published in May 2009 shows that Scotland had 28% civilianisation, compared to figure of 39% for England and Wales.

“Only the best Scottish forces have achieved this England and Wales average. Others fall far short. And after last year’s cuts and the planned cuts we now face, the Scottish figure of civilianisation is likely to fall to around 15%.

“This strategy is crazy. It takes policing in Scotland back to the 1980s – and even further back than that. I enjoy watching repeats of ‘The Sweeney’ like everyone else - but I don’t think it’s a model for modern policing in Scotland now and for the future.”


For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns - 07958 122409
Malcolm Burns, Communications Officer - 0141 342 2877 / 07538 640 396

Note to editors

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing over 162,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland, and represents police staffs in Scotland.

2. Documents available on UNISON Scotland website:

UNISON Scotland Evidence to Scottish Parliament Committees on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill published in Feb 2012:

Other background documents: