Attacks on NHS Scotland and Police Scotland are clearly part of a proxy war against the SNP being mounted on a regular basis by the opposition parties using their willing supporters in our mainstream media. This is merely the latest but also typical in its misuse of statistics to create what is essentially a form of fake news for propagandistic purposes.
Here are the headlines in the article:
‘Police spend £115m on overtime as officer headcount falls.’
‘There are 240 fewer police officers in Scotland today than there were in 2013.’
‘Police Scotland has spent more than £115m on overtime in the last five years, while the number of officers has fallen.’
First, it is only when your read on that you see the overtime figure has been made as big as possible for a nice Daily Mail-like headline by adding up the figures for five years and by including support staff. So, overtime spend on officers was, on average, only £20 million per year spent across a force of 17 250 officers or, on average, £1159 per annum or £22 per week or about 1 hour of overtime per week. To run any large organisation with variable staffing and demand across the country, managers need a bit of flexibility and 1 hour of overtime per member of staff per week seems pretty unremarkable to me.
Second, while it may be true that there are fewer officers than in 2013, this is a carefully selected but unimportant point within a bigger trend. In Scotland, contrary to some reporting, police numbers have increased. Here are the actual data presented in a detailed and statistically meaningful way:
‘As at 30 June 2017, there were 17 249 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers in Scotland. This is an increase of 1 015 police officers from the position at 31 March 2007 (+6.3 per cent). Police officer numbers have decreased by 7 FTE officers in the last quarter, since 31 March 2017, and increased by 7 FTE officers in the last year since 30 June 2016.’
Third, all good journalism needs context to enable readers to judge how good or bad the news is. See this:
‘Meanwhile, official figures show that the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 930 in the past 12 months, to 121 929, the lowest level since comparable records began in 1996. Police officer numbers are now 22 424 below their peak in 2009, when there were 144 353 officers.’
What do these figures mean in terms of the ratio of police officers to members of the public? See this:
Population England and Wales is 56 million
Number of police officers in 2017 was 121 929
Population Scotland is 5.3 million
Number of police officers in 2017 was 17 249
Ratio of population to officers England and Wales: 459/1
Ratio of population to officers Scotland: 307/1
So, as with teachers, nurses, and GPs, Scotland has a much better ratio of police officers to members of the public and thus presumably presence on the streets.
Finally, it is only in the very last line of their report that STV think to mention
‘The number of crimes recorded by police has also fallen by more than a third over the last decade.’
Isn’t this a hugely important consideration? Police Scotland with SNP Government funding has maintained its staffing as crime falls and Policing in England has seen a massive decline in staffing, under Theresa as Home Secretary, as murder in London surpasses that in New York: