Cuts to Police Scotland could lead to members of the public dying warns the Scottish Police Federation
It says the number of officers is at its lowest since Police Scotland was created 10 years ago and warns that budget cuts could lose the first 600 more officers.
David Kennedy, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, describes the situation as "scary", having been told the warning from officers on the ground.
He is worried the M9 tragedy could be repeated should officer numbers be cut.
The incident saw two people who had crashed on the motorway near Stirling trapped in a car for three days before officers arrived on the scene. A fatal accident enquiry is underway.
He says that with less officers on the ground, Police Scotland will not be able to guarantee public safety.
David said: "The reality is we have a lack of officers.
“All we can do is keep highlighting it and saying to the public that any notion that policing will remain the same and will remain as safe as it has been is just not going to happen.
“People need to realise that, and government needs to realise that.
“We might see more M9 cases appearing where people actually die because that’s the harsh reality if there are not enough police officers to get to calls that they are meant to attend.
“People may die.”
When Police Scotland was formed in 2013 there were 17,324 officers, but that has decreased by 600 since the middle of 2021.
David said that growing financial pressures on Police Scotland mean the force is looking to cut 600 more officers and 200 staff in the new year, and are exploring the possibility of closing 30 police stations and stopping probationer recruitment.
A piloted project in the north east sees some minor crimes no longer being investigated to give officers more time to respond to emergencies.
David added that an increasing pressure on resources is seeing trainees on the streets with other trainees instead of senior officers.
He said: “The minimum officer numbers were 17,234 and we’re already 600 less than that.
“We are getting told that probationers are going out with probationers at the moment which is totally unacceptable. It’s happening all over the country. In the more urban areas, it’s probably happening more than often.
“It has a massive impact on cops because they just want to do their job and they will try their utmost to do their job but they’re at the point now where they’re so overstretched they can’t do their job. We’ve tried to tell officers they need to try and do the job that they have to do but what happens when you try to take on too much, that’s when mistakes get made.
He's calling for more funding for Police Scotland.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Police officers perform an essential role keeping Scotland’s communities safe which is why the Scottish Government is investing £1.45 billion in policing in 2023/24, despite difficult financial circumstances caused by UK Government austerity.
“There are over 350 more officers than in 2007 and around 1,480 new recruits have joined Police Scotland in the last 18 months.
“Scotland also continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales.”
The spokesperson added that Holyrood “sympathies remain with the families affected” by the M9 incident, but that it would be “inappropriate” to comment any further while a fatal accident inquiry into the crash is taking place.