Humza Yousaf has insisted he still plans to roll out body-warn cameras to police in Scotland, amid Conservative fears the First Minister could be about to “let down” officers.
Tory leader Douglas Ross challenged Mr Yousaf on the planned roll out of the “vital” equipment after a senior official from the force told MSPs it cannot guarantee it will take place next year.
Mr Ross told Holyrood that a £300 million “black hole” in the force’s capital budget is the reason for the uncertainty.
On body-worn cameras, he said: “Humza Yousaf didn’t deliver them when he was justice secretary. As First Minister will he let police officers down again?”
With the force also facing the prospect of cutting 600 officers by the end of March due to the financial position, Mr Ross raised concerns that “the thin blue line is barely visible at this rate”.
His comments come after Police Scotland told the Criminal Justice Committee that staffing numbers could have to be reduced by more than 2,000 over the next four years.
During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Ross, whose wife is a serving police officer, said: “Why is the Government even considering these cuts, which will stretch Police Scotland to breaking point?
“With falling officer numbers communities in Scotland will feel less safe.
“Police Scotland will be the last force in the UK to roll out body-worn cameras, officers no longer have the resources to investigate every crime, their workplaces are not fit for purpose, and now the number of officers could be cut by 2,000.”
Official figures show Police Scotland had 16,600 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers at the end of June – down from 17,289 FTE two years ago.
On body-worn cameras, a measure which Mr Yousaf committed to in his Programme for Government for 2024-25, the First Minister said their roll out is still planned.
He told MSPs: “The facts remain that the Scottish Government has not only increased the budget for Police Scotland, the plans are to roll out our national body-worn video cameras for our police officers.”
The First Minister said this is despite Westminster cutting the Scottish Government’s capital budget by more than 6.5%
Defending his party’s record on policing, Mr Yousaf went on: “The Scottish Government has increased Police Scotland’s budget by £80 million this year. Fact.
“We have more police officers per head in Scotland than England. Fact.
“When we look at recorded crime levels, they are at one of the lowest in Scotland for almost 50 years. Fact.
“In fact, recorded crime has fallen by 42% since the SNP came into power. That is a fact.
“So when it comes to looking at whether Scotland is safer under the SNP, there is simply no denying Scotland is undoubtedly safer under this SNP Government, that is a fact.”
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