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POLICING PRIORITIES OUTLINED

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Justice minister Cathy Jamieson will re-affirm the Executive's commitment to improving frontline policing and suppo...
Justice minister Cathy Jamieson will re-affirm the Executive's commitment to improving frontline policing and supporting the service in the fight against crime when she addresses the Scottish Police Federation conference today.

The minister will point to a range of developments and improvements announced since last autumn, including:

* A 17 per cent increase over the next three years in police grant-aided expenditure - taking it to£1.1bn by 2007-08.

* Providing investment to set up a Police Business Benefits Unit to help Scottish police forces improve their efficiency and ensure every penny possible of funding is spent on frontline policing.

* Plans in the Police Bill consultation paper to improve the crime-fighting powers of the police, such as the introduction of football banning orders and giving the police the unconditional power to arrest someone suspected of carrying a knife.

Ms Jamieson said:

'An early priority for this Executive was to deliver record resources for the Scottish Police Service. This has been done - and is continuing to be done. Indeed, Scotland's budget last year enabled me to announce a 17 per cent increase in the primary source of police funding - GAE - over the next three years.

'Those record resources have enabled us to work with forces to deliver a record number of police officers in Scotland - almost 16,000 whole-time equivalent officers by the end of 2004.

'As well as investing in resources, I have also stepped up our efforts to ensure resources are used more efficiently- and targeted at the frontline. In September, we provided funding for a new Police Business Benefits Unit to help forces cut red-tape and improve efficiency across a wide range of back office services and thereby maximise their spending on preventing and tackling crime. The roll-out of the Reliance contract, while initially problematic, has also now enabled us to re-direct more than 200 police officers from escorting duties to the frontline.

'More police spending more of their time doing what they do best. But also supported with the tools they need to tackle today's problems. That's why we are currently consulting on proposals to further help the police in their efforts to protect communities, including the introduction of football banning orders and measures to tackle knife crime.

'All this sends a clear message to the service and the public, that officers throughout Scotland have my full backing and support. And that we will continue to work with them to create safer communities.'

The Executive's Partnership Agreement includes a commitment to improve on the current record level of overall police numbers. At end-December 2004, there were 15,908 whole time equivalent police officers serving in the Scottish Police Service - an increase of 415 over December 2003 and 913 since December 2001.

The Police Bill consultation will run until 3 May and will pave the way for new legislation to strengthen and improve policing and law enforcement in Scotland.

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