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Stop and search levels plummet across Scotland, apart from in the north

Stop and search has remained at the same level across the rural north of Scotland
Stop and search has remained at the same level across the rural north of Scotland

The number of stop and searches carried out in the north increased during the final months of last year – despite plummeting in the rest of the country.

Between June and August, there were 29,777 searches across Scotland but dropped to 17,677 in the final three months of the year.

But in the Highlands and islands, the number of people searched rose from 798 during the summer months to 801 between October and December.

In Aberdeenshire and Moray, the number rose from 297 to 357, but in Aberdeen it fell from 1,023 to 756.

The figures from the winter months of 2014 are not available as police have changed how they measure stop and search.

Last night local politicians demanded answers about the disparity in the north of Scotland.

Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, said: “There are two possibilities – either there is lazy policing in the Highlands and Islands, or as police resources are being pooled away into the central belt police are having to resort to stop and search in order to do their job.

“Either way the people of the Highlands and Islands are not getting the policing they deserve.”

North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald also asked why the figures were so different in the rural parts of the north.

He said: “I would question why the figures have fallen in Aberdeen and in central and southern Scotland but not in the rural parts of Aberdeenshire and the Highlands and if the same effort is being made to reduce unnecessary stop and search in the area.

“The strike between the rural north of Scotland and the rest is striking.”

But Chief Inspector John McCluskey, of the north-east division, said there was no correct number of searches.

He said: “Stop and search is a highly effective, intelligence led tactic, and there are no targets for the volume carried out by Police Scotland.

“The number of people searched will vary constantly, based on our activities, intelligence received and the individuals our officers deal with on any given day.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “Stop and search can be a valuable tool in combating crime and has led to the seizures of dangerous weapons, drugs and stolen goods.”

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