THE draft Scottish budget for 2020/21 is almost £50 billion.

The Scottish Government has direct control of £40.5bn of this, and has assigned £2.8bn to Justice.

Of this, £1.2bn goes to the Scottish Police Authority for onward transfer to Police Scotland. And of this, £40m is capital spending earmarked for buildings, vehicles, IT and equipment.

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Despite being less than 0.1 per cent of the money controlled by ministers, that capital spending has become one of the biggest rows at Holyrood.

The police want more, the Government say no, and the opposition are jumping up and down about Nicola Sturgeon putting the public at risk with underfunding.

For the sake of another 0.1% of the pot, the problem would almost certainly go away. But the government is adamant. So this one could run and run all the way to the 2021 election.

The Scottish Police Federation, the body representing rank and file officers, has been very adept - and quite ruthless - at exposing the effects of inadequate captial funding.

It has ambushed Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf more than once with photographs and videos of water coming through roofs, mushrooms coming through floors, and cars patched up with duct tape.

It has made the point that this is not about keeping cops cosy. Interview rooms for rape survivors and other victims of crime are also sub-standard in some police stations.

“More than 25% of the Police Scotland estate is graded as being in poor condition; 2/3 of the estate is over 40 years old and 1/3 is over 70 years old,” the SPF told Holyrood’s committee on policing this week.

“We have long passed the time where the service can maintain a pretence that it is able to deliver the long overdue changes in its IT capabilities,” it said.

“Instead, it is left pursuing totems that give the impression of being technologically significant to satisfy the Government’s need to have photo opportunities and headlines.”

It said £85m a year in capital allocation was needed for the next decade to bring the estate and the vehicle fleet and IT up to scratch.

The SPF was not alone.

Police Scotland welcomed an extra £37m in day-to-day revenue spending, £17m more than it expected.


However this still left it with a looming deficit £49m, rather the £66m black hole it had anticipated.

“We are disappointed that the 2020/21 draft budget continues the long term trend of Police Scotland being under-funded,” it said.

As for capital, it told MSPs it had been asking for £74m since last summer, and now wouldn’t be able to afford smart phones for some officers, or the body worn cameras which are standard issue south of the border.

It predicted “further deterioration and failure” in the police estate.

It noted the Scottish Government had given £5m ringfenced for green vehicles - seen by some officers as a gimmick for the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November - but without that, the money amounted to the second real-terms cut in a row.

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The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents also said the capital funding fell “considerably short” given the “shabby state” of many police stations and the “frankly embarrassing” conditions at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan.

Spending on the estate was now being prioritised to “comply with health and safety” regulations.

While the fleet manager was being “asked to play a form of Jenga with marked response vehicles” as they juggled what was safe to drive.

The Scottish Police Authority added capital resources were “significantly below” what was required.

With that kind of ammunition, it was no surprise Jackson Carlaw led on the issue at FMQs on Thursday.

Nicola Sturgeon read out such selective comments from the bodies above that it distorted the sense of their evidence. She then fell back on saying Scotland had 1000 more officers than when the SNP came to power, while the Tories cut 20,000 in England.

Which is true. But if you’re going to have another 1000 officers, it’s a good idea to give them the estate, vehicles, kit and computers to do their job.

A few minutes after FMQs, Mr Yousaf appeared before the policing committee to give his side of the story.

It was a polished performance in which he gently suggested the police were at it, changing their demands on the hoof, and having more budget flexibility than they made out.

He noted capital funding was £20m in 2017/18, but double that now.

A £12m payment ringfenced for 10,000 new smart phones last year had also been “baselined” into this year’s budget, so the same amount was there to spend as the force saw fit.

It was “news to me” they wanted smart phones for all 17,259 officers.

And body worn cameras were “not really part of the conversation” he’d had with the police before the budget.

Besides, there were “ethical considerations” to mull over first.

Moreover, 99.5% of the police estate was health and safety compliant as of last month and 96% of the vehicle fleet was on the road.

He also heaped responsibility onto Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, saying he would have the final say on how the monies were spent, and he trusted him to do it well, adding: “We are all having to prioritise.”

It was a different angle, subtly done.

But it will do the Government little good in the atmosphere of raw electoral combat that has already descended on Holyrood.

Mr Yousaf and Ms Sturgeon are in for a kicking on this one. No doubt.

It’s a bit of a headscratcher how the SNP got themselves in this corner.

Politically, it’s a no-brainer to give the police more money, at least until after the election is over, to deny the opposition a rich stream of bad headlines to exploit.

Under Mr Carlaw, the Scottish Tories are looking hungrier and more aggressive than they have for years.

They are spoiling for a fight on every front, and the SNP cannot afford to offer them a weak flank.

The Tories are still a long way from power, but they can deny the SNP and Greens a pro-independence majority, then hope the Yes movement tears itself apart in frustration.

That 0.1% and its like may prove very costly for Ms Sturgeon and her party in the long run.