THE number of loyalist and republican marches has increased by almost 20 per cent in Scotland, adding to the pressures facing police.

Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable of Police Scotland, said around 1,800 such events took place last year, rising from 1,500.

It came as he outlined the challenges facing officers across Scotland as the police struggle to deal with a funding shortfall.

Mr Livingstone said Police Scotland’s capital budget is “derisory”, while savings of £200 million have been made every year since the creation of the single force in 2013.

And he insisted “acute operational demand” will continue over 2020 due to Brexit and events such as COP26, a major climate change summit to be hosted in Glasgow in November.

Mr Livingstone said early assessments indicate the policing costs of COP26 could potentially exceed £200 million.

He said it will be “one of the biggest events ever hosted in the UK, with a significant number of heads of state expected to attend, as well as tens of thousands of delegates over a two-week period”.

Policing requirements would be “far more significant” than past events, including the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005.

At a board meeting of the Scottish Police Authority, Mr Livingstone said accommodation for officers alone could cost “tens of millions”.

He added: “Candidly, it is my professional opinion that any suggestion that the climate change conference will not impact on the wider community of Scotland is fanciful.”

An estimated 90,000 people, including around 200 world leaders, will attend the UN’s COP26 summit over 12 days in November.

For the duration of this, the conference site at the Scottish Events Campus in Finnieston will become international territory.

Elsewhere, Mr Livingstone pointed to the rise in parades and marches, which also put pressure on police officers.

He said: “In 2019, by way of example, the number of parades – Orange walks, republican marches and such like – which Police Scotland were notified of increased by almost 20%, from around 1,500 to 1,800, often resulting in a large policing response necessary to maintain order and protect the public.”

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr warned this year's parades season could once again be "challenging".

He said there had been "significant tension" around some marches in 2019, with a number of events requiring a police presence of more than 500.

He said he feared that could continue to be the case this year.

Mr Kerr, who spent almost three decades as a police officer in Belfast, said his "intuition" tells him it is "going to be a challenging year around the parading season".

The force had to call in riot police, mounted officers, a police helicopter and dog units to deal with "significant disorder" at a march in Govan at the end of August last year when "disruptive" counter-protesters met a planned Irish Unity march.

Another march saw a policeman injured when he was struck by a pyrotechnic thrown by a protester.

Auditors previously suggested Police Scotland will need an additional £50 million over the next two years to avoid slashing officer numbers.

There have been warnings that up to 750 officers will need to be cut to balance the books.

However, Mr Livingstone said it was not appropriate to begin reducing officer numbers in March, as he had planned, due to the upcoming events and pressures.

David Crichton, vice chair of the Scottish Police Authority, said there is a “structural deficit in the policing budget”.

He said: “It’s simple arithmetic, it’s not complicated mathematics.

“With almost 90% of the budget allocated to officer and staff costs it does mean that difficult choices are going to have to be made over the next weeks and months. Difficult choices by government, by the authority, and by Police Scotland.

“Frankly, current officer numbers are not sustainable within the existing budget, so something has to change on that front.

“The deficit is simply going to continue to increase if something does not change.”