Police Scotland has made savings of £330 million in its first five years – but bosses at the national force have accepted that “sometimes our service has not met expectations”.
The force came into being on April 1, 2013, and since then has dealt with more than eight million incidents.
While the force has been required to “overcome a number of challenges” since its creation, bosses were clear that frontline policing had been protected as a result of the change.
In a submission to MSPs the force – which has had three chief constables in five years – said: “Police Scotland has faced a number of significant challenges and we accept that sometimes our service has not met expectations.”
Police Scotland also conceded on call handling there had been a “number of incidents” where “our service has significantly fallen short with tragic consequences” – such as the case of John Bell and Lamara Yuill, who died after officers took three days to respond to reports of their car crashing off the M9 motorway.
The national police force, together with a Scotland-wide fire service, was established after MSPs passed the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.
Holyrood’s Justice Committee is now examining the first five years of reform, with Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson, ‘A’ Division Divisional Commander, to give evidence to MSPs on Tuesday.
A submission to the committee from Police Scotland before that stressed: “From the first day of the national service, Police Scotland’s focus has been on the delivery of effective, quality operational policing services across the country, to keep people safe.
“The service has dealt with more than eight million incidents and securely policed high profile, major political, sporting and public events since inception.
“The delivery of such complex integration and change has been challenging and continues to be so, as Police Scotland enters its sixth year. Much has been achieved in the first five years but there is still a great deal to do to reach optimum efficiency and effectiveness.”
Cumulative net savings of £330 million have been achieved “while protecting frontline delivery”, the force said.
It added Police Scotland is “likely to exceed” the target of making £1.1 billion of savings by 2026.
“These benefits of the national service have been delivered in the face of significant financial constraints and requirement for savings, whilst enhancing the service delivered to the public,” the submission noted.
The creation of Police Scotland means “despite increases in demand for policing services, significant financial savings have been delivered without any overall negative impact on the frontline”.
The force added this was “in contrast to the position in other jurisdictions, including England and Wales, where large reductions in police resources have had a negative impact on community policing”.
Other benefits of the establishment of the national force include a “better capability at a national level to respond to organised crime and counter terrorism”, and an increase in firearms officers who are on duty across the country.
The force also pointed to the creation of national units to tackle child abuse, human trafficking, rape and domestic abuse, and said expertise in digital forensics and cybercrime prevention was being introduced across the country.
“Police Scotland considers that the objectives of reform have largely been met and policing has improved across our communities,” the submission said.
“The reform experience has raised significant challenges but after five years the service has a clear, long-term strategy and delivery plans to ensure policing meets the current and future needs of a changing Scotland.”