Reform Scotland


Reform Scotland’s report highlights that the number of crimes cleared up has fallen from 12 per police officer to 8 per police officer in the last seven years

New research by independent think tank Reform Scotland has shown that, despite the hiring of an additional 1,000 extra police officers, the number of crimes being solved in Scotland is falling. Whilst acknowledging and welcoming the fact that recorded crime has fallen by 35 per cent during the same timeframe, the report, called The Thinning Blue Line, showed that:

  • the number of crimes being cleared-up has fallen from 198,985 in 2006/07 to 139,306 in 2013/14 – a drop of 30%
  • this is despite the fact that the number of police officers in Scotland has increased from 16,234 in quarter one of 2007 to 17,295 in quarter one of 2015
  • the number of crimes cleared up per FTE police officer has fallen from 12 in 2006/07, to 8 in 2013/14

The executive summary is available here, and the full report is available here.

This shows that over a period of falling crime and rising police officer numbers, the actual number of crimes being cleared-up has fallen. Unison has suggested that police officers are spending more time covering work previously carried out by civilian staff, which Reform Scotland believes could help explain the situation.

If the pledge to recruit 1,000 extra officers has resulted in police officers having to carry out backroom duties, as opposed to being out on the street, we would question whether it is delivering value for taxpayers’ money.  As a result Reform Scotland would urge the Government to review this policy.

Should the Scottish Government remove the pledge, it would not necessarily lead to a reduction in police officers. However it would give greater operational freedom to the police to decide how to best use their own resources, ensuring deployment was an operational, not a political decision.

The report also examines ways of injecting localism back into policing in Scotland. Whilst acknowledging that the sort of wholesale reorganisation Reform Scotland would seek is unlikely so soon after the creation of Police Scotland, the think tank believes that localism can be re-injected into the existing structure by:

  • Altering the divisional structure to place a divisional commander in charge of each local authority area in Scotland, and simultaneously re-instating a 50/50 funding split between local and central government
  • Ensuring that all local authorities are represented on the Scottish Police Authority.

Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne said:

“The figures speak for themselves. The number of police officers has increased yet fewer crimes are being solved.

“It has been suggested that police officers have to carry out duties previously carried out by civilian staff, which would certainly help explain this situation. After all, it is not just the number of police officers that is important, but how they are deployed.

“As a result we would urge the Scottish Government to review the 1,000 extra officers pledge to ensure that the policy is delivering value for taxpayers’ money.  Staff deployment should be an operational, as opposed to a political, decision.”

On the subject of the structure of policing, Alison Payne added:

“Reform Scotland disagreed with the formation of a single police force, and we remain opposed on the grounds that the single force does not offer the necessary flexibility to deal with regional and local differences. While we accept that further police reorganisation will not happen in the short-term, we do believe that the single police force does not need to be such a centralised one and have set out policies which could give a greater voice to local communities.”