The number of police officers in Scotland has reached a record high, new figures revealed yesterday.
Statistics published by the Scottish Government covering the period to the end of December showed the country had 16,675 male and female officers.
That is an increase of 149, compared with the previous quarter, and an increase of 441 since March 2007.
The new figures showed that 1,483 officers are employed by Grampian Police, an increase of 10 on the third quarter of last year.
In contrast, the force had only 1,440 officers at the end of 2007, 1,400 at the end of 2006 and 1,368 at the end of 2005.
Northern Constabulary had 747 officers at the end of last year, up from 713 at the end of 2007 and 697 at the end of 2006.
The force had 704 officers at the end of 2005, however.
Tayside Police had 1,180 officers at the end of last year, 1,174 at the end of 2007, 1,173 at the end of 2006 and 1,155 at the end of 2005.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the figures showed the Scottish Government was delivering its promise to boost officer numbers across the country.
“This continuing increase is in part the result of our direct recruitment of new officers, over and above the recruitment plans of our police forces,” he added.
“We are also working with forces on retention and redeployment of officers.”
Grampian Joint Police Board convener Martin Greig welcomed the 10 new recruits, but pointed out the total number “fell short” of the force’s target of 1,600 by 2008-09.
The organisation is being forced to pay half of a £781,000 pensions bill, which means up to 30 fewer officers than had been planned will be recruited.
Labour and Conservative MSPs claim the SNP’s promise to recruit 1,000 new officers across Scotland would be achieved only if numbers reached 17,234 by 2011. Some 16,234 were in place before May 2007.
Asked if this target will be achieved by the next Holyrood election, Mr MacAskill said: “No, what we said we would have is 1,000 additional recruits that we are funding through the government.
“Equally, chief constables are recruiting over and above that.
“It is not just about recruiting new officers, it is about retaining officers.”
Opposition MSPs seized on the admission and claimed it proved the SNP had broken another key election manifesto policy.
Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said: “This shows the government’s justice policy and Kenny’s MacAskill’s credibility is now in tatters.
“It is a disgrace and he must explain to parliament why the government have dropped this clear commitment to the public.”
Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said the national recruitment target must be met by 2011 to “justify the trust” his party had placed in the SNP in exchange for supporting the £33billion budget for 2009-10.
Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown said: “If there aren't 17,234 police officers in Scotland by May 2011 then SNP ministers have failed – no ifs, no buts.”
Mid-Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Liz Smith has demanded the SNP Government puts in place the resources required to recruit extra police officers for Tayside Police, after figures showed a drop in the overall number of police officers in Tayside to 1,180 for the latest quarter (31 December 2008), from 1,185.
“The Scottish Conservatives only agreed to support the Scottish Government’s 2008 Budget if certain key pledges were met. One of these was the pledge to provide 1,000 additional officers across the country.
“The Scottish Government gave an undertaking to use £10million in 2008/9 and £13million in 2009/10 to fund the recruitment of 1,000 additional police officers by 2011. The SNP Government must not fail in their pledge of 1,000 extra police officers across Scotland.”