Scotland’s Justice Secretary has said she cannot meet all requests for funding in her portfolio.
Demands have been made for more cash from across the justice sector, most notably in recent weeks from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Scottish Police Federation (SPF).
Firefighters protested outside Holyrood last month calling for an end to cuts that they say could put lives at risk, while the SPF – which represents rank and file officers – this week said policing had been “asset stripped”.
Speaking before the Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday, Angela Constance said she could not supply all services with the funding they are asking for.
“I say this with the greatest of respect to the many, many valued stakeholders who have come to committee and given detailed evidence both in person and in writing, but if I add up all of those asks – I can’t meet all of those asks,” she said.
“I’m just being dead straight with committee.
“That means that we will have to do things differently and leverage in incentives within the resources we do have to see where people can do things such as spend to save.
“Our journey with public sector reform is not over.
“We will still have examples, whether that’s in justice or across the public sector, of services being delivered in a way that may meet the needs of the institution or the organisation, but not the individuals in the perennial challenge of being able to support people earlier on in their life’s journey which will prevent problems further down the line.”
Ms Constance added: “The ultimate assessment always has to be better outcomes – crimes going down, fires are going down.
“How do we have services we are reaching people earlier? How do we have services, where it’s appropriate, we’re preventing people going to prison?
“Because that isn’t just in the interests of the individual, it’s in the interests of our communities and our country.
“We need to move that debate from quantum to quality and to one of change, notwithstanding that there are undoubtedly difficulties with the financial envelope that’s available to us.”
On policing, the Justice Secretary said she would “work as hard as possible to get the best possible budget” for the service.
She also said that the £200 million savings the SPF contended had been “asset stripped” in the formation of Police Scotland, which they say has represented a £2 billion cut to policing, was a “good example of public sector reform”.
Ms Constance went on to say that inspections of the force have praised the service, adding: “Policing in terms of what it is achieving, in terms of the investment and in terms of police numbers, I would contend is secure and stable.”