The number of police officers funded directly by councils in Scotland has almost halved in the last four years, it has been revealed.
Freedom of information requests from the Scottish Conservatives to the country’s 32 local authorities have shown there are 87 police officers that are partially or fully funded through council budgets.
In 2018/19, this number stood at 170.
The party’s justice spokesman, Jamie Greene, has slammed the cuts to council budgets as “brutal”, adding that it has impacted the number of frontline officers required to keep communities safe.
The party said that since the merging of Scotland’s police forces back in 2013, real-term cuts to local government funding has hit almost £600 million.
The Scottish Tories are pushing for the introduction of a Local Policing Act, which it says will “guarantee a significant police presence in communities”.
Mr Greene said: “This shows once and for all the direct impact savage SNP cuts to local authority budgets are having year after year.
“Our councils across Scotland are stretched beyond their means and that has meant they are not able to fund as many local police officers as they would like to.
“For the number of officers that are directly funded by councils to fall by almost half in just a few years is devastating. It only makes our communities feel less safe.
“It is little wonder that violent crime is on the increase in nearly every local authority area when our councils don’t have the money and resources to fund extra police officers.
“SNP ministers have been all too happy to pass on the burden of cuts to councils for far too long.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Scotland is a safer country since this SNP government took office.
“By all main measures, crime – including violent crime – has fallen and there are fewer victims. Recorded crime remains at one of the lowest levels since 1974 and is down 41% since 2006-07.
“In contrast, the Tories have no credibility on justice issues. If they’re so tough on crime, why are the Scottish Tories silent about their own Prime Minister – the first PM to receive a police fine while in office?”
A Scottish Government spokesman said police numbers north of the border were better than elsewhere in the country – in Scotland there were 32 officers per 10,000, the spokesman said, compared to 23 per 10,000 in England and Wales.
“We are providing a real terms increase of 6.3% to local authority budgets for the coming year, despite a cut to the Scottish Government’s overall budget of 5.2%, due primarily to UK Government funding reductions,” the spokesman said.
“Local authorities are independent corporate bodies with their own powers and responsibilities. Ultimately, it is for locally elected representatives to make local decisions on how best to manage their budgets and deliver services to their communities.
“Despite UK Government austerity we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17. The policing budget is almost £1.4 billion in 2022-23. The Scottish Police Authority resource budget will increase by 3.4% in 2022-23 – an additional £40.5 million – delivering our commitment to protect the police resource budget in real terms throughout this Parliament.”