Humza Yousaf has insisted Scotland is safer under the SNP despite fears hundreds of police officers could soon face compulsory redundancy.

Yesterday, Police Scotland warned Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee that a flat cash settlement in this year’s budget could see the force need to make £140m of savings and lead to overall officer numbers falling by more than 2,000 over the next four years.

The service's budget worries were raised during Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions by  Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

READ MORE: Police Scotland warns of compulsory redundancies

He pointed out that last week, in his programme for government, Mr Yousaf had promised to roll out body-worn cameras for officers next year.

Yet on Wednesday, David Page, Police Scotland’s Deputy Chief Officer had told MSPs that could not be guaranteed because of budget pressures.

Mr Ross said there was a £300m black hole in the force’s capital budget, which he added was among the lowest in UK policing.

“If this really is a priority for Humza Yousaf, will he treat it like one? Ross asked.

The Herald:

“Let's deal with the facts,” the First Minister said. “The fact is, the UK Government has cut our capital budget by over 6.5%.

“But here's some more facts for Douglas Ros: The Scottish Government has increased police Scotland's budget by £80m this year. Fact.

“The fact of the matter is we have more police officers per head in Scotland than England. Fact.

“Of course, when we look at recorded crime levels, they are they are at one of their lowest in Scotland in almost 50 years. Fact.

“In fact, recorded crime has fallen by 42% since the SNP came into power that is a fact.

“So when it comes to looking at whether Scotland is safer under the SNP, there is simply no denying that Scotland is undoubtedly safer under this SNP government. That is a fact.”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf accused of 'cover-up' after misleading MSPs

Mr Ross told MSPs that it was a fact that there was a "£300m black hole in police Scotland's capital budget."

“Officer numbers in Scotland at their lowest levels in 14 years. Fact," he added.

“They started to slip when [Mr Yousaf] was Justice Secretary and now they're in freefall as he's First Minister, and without further funding, Police Scotland warned yesterday that 2,000 police officers could be let go in the next five years.

“600 could be off our streets by April next year.

“So why is the government even considering these cuts which will stretch policing in Scotland to breaking point?”

Mr Ross told the First Minister that the thin blue line was “barely visible at this rate.”

READ MORE: Recorded Police Warnings: Scotland's 'secret justice' system

“Does the First Minister accept this that with falling officer numbers, communities in Scotland will feel less safe?”

“I don't accept that in the slightest,” the SNP leader said. “Around 1,280 new recruits have joined Police Scotland in the last 18 months. Over 350 more police officers than when we took office in 2007.

“When it comes to real terms increases in Police Scotland’s budget, that's a fair enough call for any political party to make. And of course, we'll give that consideration when it comes to the budget.

“But has Douglas Ross ever asked himself why a real-term increase was difficult this year?

“Of course, it was difficult because inflation is sky high.

“Inflation is sky high because of his party's complete economic mismanagement of the public finances.

“So when it comes to real terms increases of course we will give that consideration but it was Douglas Ross a year ago that stood here that demanded the Scottish Government copy Liz Truss’s disastrous mini budget.

“If we had done that we wouldn't have money to spend on a police service, or indeed any of our public services. Thank goodness that Douglas Ross is nowhere near the public finances of Scotland.”