A FRESH row broke out over the new Scottish police force last night amid claims that the number of beat bobbies in Aberdeen has been slashed over the past 12 months.
Figures released under freedom of information legislation show that, since the single service was formed just over a year ago, the complement of officers serving in the city’s community teams has plunged from 428 to 330.
Scottish Conservatives justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell warned that the dramatic reduction would mean vital local knowledge being lost. But the force and the Scottish Government fiercely rejected the claims and insisted it was “misleading and inaccurate” to make a comparison because the Aberdeen division could now draw on officers nationally and regionally when needed.
Mrs Mitchell said: “Community officers have the necessary local knowledge to effectively police their community.
“This is yet another example of Police Scotland’s centralisation of decision-making, which has little or no regard for the distinct needs of local communities.”
Police Scotland said the division now had access to 1,947 additional officers at regional and national level when required.
But North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “A cut of more than 20% in the number of officers employed in policing Aberdeen’s communities is truly shocking, but sadly comes as no surprise.
“Former Grampian Police officers have been leaving the service in droves.
“Those who remain are more and more likely to be tied to backroom jobs previously done by civilian staff who have lost their jobs.
“We need fewer back-room bobbies and officers on horseback, and more cops in the community.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was misleading to compare “legacy” figures to those of the current force, a comment echoed by Police Scotland.
She said: “A significant benefit of reform is that now each division has dedicated officers deployed locally and access to both regional and nationally deployed officers, as well as access to national and specialist support services, whenever and wherever they are needed.”
She added that there had been 1,512 police officers in Grampian Police as of March 2013 – an increase of 10.1% from March 2007.
Prior to the creation of a single police force, the SNP government was on track to deliver its election manifesto promise of 2007.
Within two years, Scotland had 17,278 officers – up from 16,234 when the party came to power in 2007.
However, just three weeks after the creation of a single police force in Scotland, on April 1 last year, 170 jobs had been lost throughout the country, including 17 in Aberdeen.
Further concerns were raised in August, when it emerged that there were only two police road safety advisers in the north-east, as opposed to 10 three years previously, as the new force’s strategic police plan took effect.
More controversy followed as Police Scotland proposed to shut 10 stations in the north and north-east.
In January, the Press and Journal revealed proposals to slash the number of 999 centres from 10 to three, with bases in Tayside, Glasgow and Edinburgh covering the whole country.