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'Gangster tax' to plug funding gap for Scottish policing

CRIMINALS will pay for Scottish ­policing for the first time after Chief Constable Sir Stephen House secures his long sought-after "gangster tax".

His new national force will get £16 million from ill-gotten cash and assets seized by the Crown to plug its funding gap over the next two years.

For some years Sir Stephen has been lobbying to keep a share of the money his force helps to raise by targeting criminals, convicted or not, under the Proceeds of Crime Act (Poca).

Now the draft Police Scotland budget to go before its ruling board next week shows "additional income" from Poca of £16m over 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Sir Stephen first suggested such a scheme in 2012, saying: "We have all these criminals out there with all this money that they have stolen from law-abiding people.

"Everybody is worried about paying their taxes. But why keep taxing law-abiding people when we could be taxing criminals?"

However, Sir Stephen also said Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has a "mental block" on the issue amid concerns that letting police chase cash for their own funding could create inappropriate incentives.

Police and prosecutors had raised more than £80m under Poca by the end of the April 2013 and are about to announce their latest haul.

Right now almost all of this money goes to finance good causes through the CashBack for Communities initiative.

The draft police budget includes an extra £6m from Poca in 2014-15. That represents about one-tenth of savings already identified by the force for the financial year.

Another £9.5m will have to be found by managers to meet an annual "cost reductions" target of £66m.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) will debate the budget next Wednesday. Its members have been asking questions over whether such Poca funding - never before used for such spending - could be guaranteed. An SPA spokeswoman said: ­"Guidance was sought and received from the Scottish Government on anticipated receipts and use of POCA funding as set out in the revenue budget strategy for 2014-2016.

"Further assurances by SPA members will be sought from Police Scotland on the sums they have allocated to this funding stream during consideration of the budget in Inverness next week."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, which Mr MacAskill chairs, had agreed that "options" for POCA cash "may include proposals from Police Scotland and others for wider community-based projects".

She added: "We have always been clear that the money recovered from the Proceeds of Crime Act should be used to benefit all communities, especially those which have suffered from crime, and CashBack for Communities has already funded 1.1 million activities for young people since 2008."

A Police Scotland spokesman, asked what POCA money would be spent on, said: "No specific decision has yet been taken on the use of the allocated funds but it is anticipated that the monies will be used to support policing activities in communities."

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Finance

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