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Police Scotland warn of ‘unrest’ due to ‘constitutional uncertainty’

UNCERTAINTY on the constitutional question has been identified by police as contributing to the threat of “civil unrest”, it has been reported.

Iain Livingstone, the chief constable of Police Scotland, told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority on Thursday that the ongoing debate on independence is contributing to a potent cocktail of factors, including waves of strikes over the winter, which he feared could result in a breakdown in social cohesion.

In a dramatic warning, the Scottish Tories claimed the Chief Constable had painted a “worrying picture of the impact the SNP‘s failure to support our police could have across our communities”.

The head of Scotland’s police force said looming cuts to the service – expected to be in the region of £300 million – will lead to a “fundamental reduction in policing capacity and capability”, reports the Daily Mail.

READ MORE: Teachers in Scotland to strike for 16 consecutive days, union confirms

Livingstone said: “When there are times of potential breakdown in social cohesion, there are more intense industrial relations, there’s clearly a level of constitutional uncertainty within society at the moment.

“All of those put wider pressure on the cohesiveness of local communities and inevitably that can manifest itself in the pressure on policing.”

A police source later told the paper: “A lot of factors are coming together over the next few months which could produce civil unrest including constitutional uncertainty, industrial strife and the economic climate.”

The Scottish Tories have accused the SNP of “whipping up” independence supporters with “divisive rhetoric” after the Supreme Court blocked the Scottish Government’s plans to hold an independence referendum next year.

READ MORE: Unionists accuse Nicola Sturgeon of ‘Trump tactics’ on independence

The party’s justice spokesperson Jamie Greene said: “This warning from Scotland’s top cop paints a worrying picture of the impact the SNP’s failure to support our police could have across our communities.

“With the nationalists whipping up their divisive rhetoric once again, this unprecedented warning shows there is clearly cause for concern by the Chief Constable.

“That is why the SNP must both abandon their harsh cuts to police budgets and at the same time call out pro-independence supporters inciting unrest, disorder or advocating hatred online or elsewhere.”

The National: Jamie Greene in the Scottish Parliament during the debate.

It comes against a backdrop of looming cuts to Scotland’s police force, which Livingstone told the police watchdog would significantly curb its community policing abilities. 

He added: “The implications for community policing – the bedrock 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 emerging threats would be significant.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17 and 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 head of population than England and Wales and more officers now than in March 2007.

“Crime in Scotland has fallen significantly, with recorded crime at the lowest level seen since 1974, down 43% since 2006-07.”



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