Strikes, constitutional uncertainty and crisis poverty threaten the cohesion of communities across the country, according to the police chief Scotland.
Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone also said planned cuts, which could result in the loss of thousands of officers, would lead to a “fundamental reduction” in the force’s ability to fairly and safely police large events and demonstrations.
Livingstone made his comments at a board meeting of Police Scotland on Thursday, the day after demonstrations were held across the country to protest against judgment of the Supreme Court that the Scottish Government could not arrange a second independence referendum without Westminster’s approval.
He told the board: “When there are times of a potential breakdown in social cohesion – there are more intense industrial relations, there is clearly a level of constitutional uncertainty in society at the moment – all of these put wider pressures on the cohesion of local communities. and that may inevitably manifest itself in pressure on the local police.”
A police source stressed that Livingstone did not intend to make a political point, but that a combination of factors was putting pressure on already strained resources as the cost-of-living crisis increases vulnerability and need and other agencies face similar budget cuts, often leaving the police as last resort.
Referring to the Scottish Government’s proposal to offer an allocation of cash to Police Scotland over the next five years, which senior officers have estimated will require cuts of up to £300m. GBP, Livingstone said: “The consequences for community policing – the foundation of policing in Scotland – and for operational effectiveness, for our ability to police major events and demonstrations fairly and safely and to protect people from existing and new threats would be significant.”
Livingstone earlier this year called for “robust but respectful debate” after what he described as disgraceful behavior at a husting for the conservative leadership in Perth.
Politicians, journalists and members of the public who attended the hustings at Perth’s Concert Hall in August reported that protesters threw eggs, spat at Tory members and stormed past the outer security barriers before officers pushed them back.
Amid allegations of increasingly inflammatory language on both sides of the constitutional debate, Nicola Sturgeon’s official spokesman on Thursday accused “unionist politicians trying to pretend they won an election they lost” of “behaving like Donald Trump”.
This came after Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Sturgeon’s renaming of the pro-independence movement “Scottish Democracy Movement” following the court ruling was “straight out of the Trump playbook”.
“I was elected to oppose a referendum by more votes than any other candidate in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It is my democratic duty to continue to oppose it,” he said.
Also on Thursday, the SNP’s defense spokesman at Westminster, Stewart McDonald, called on colleagues on Twitter to moderate their language, urging politicians to “avoid talking about being jailed or shackled”.
This came after Sturgeon told reporters on Wednesday as she vowed to run the next general election as a “de facto referendum” that she would not “allow Scottish democracy to be a prisoner of Westminster”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government has increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17 and has invested more than £10 billion in policing since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013.
“Police Scotland has welcomed around 900 new recruits this year and we have a higher number of officers per population than England and Wales and more officers now than in March 2007.”