Police Scotland are cutting their quarterly intake of hundreds officers in January in a bid to save funds until the end of the financial year, The Herald can reveal.

The force, which is under financial strain, will announce that 200 probationary officers, due to be recruited in January, will be cut.

The Scottish Government said that the move was “for a short time” and will allow police chiefs to “focus their resources during a busy period and to ensure the recruitment standard is of the level they expect”.

It comes after Humza Yousaf was accused by Douglas Ross at First Minister’s Questions of being “sly and sleekit and secretive about the consequences of the SNP’s cuts on Police Scotland”.

As well as the new cuts, due to be announced on Friday, police in the north east are also piloting an initiative which could see some crimes go investigated by officers.

Read more: Humza Yousaf branded 'a criminal's dream' over police cuts

The First Minister claimed that his government has “increased funding for Police Scotland by an additional 6.3% in terms of their revenue”.

It is thought that the number of officers in the April intake could be increased from 200 to 300, but insiders fear there will not be enough funding in next year’s policing budget from the Scottish Government to catch up.

A police source told The Herald that Police Scotland “will not recruit probationary constables from January for a quarter”, with the decision “simply guided by having no money to do so”.

The insider added that the plan is that “potentially from April they will take on 300 instead”, but added: “My fear is once those 200 are not in the system, they won’t have the money to backfill them.”

The source said: “They do not have the money to pay for police officers this year.

“This is simply a case of being unable to afford policing for the rest of this financial year. So instead, they will offset the costs and start again in 2024/25.

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“It is being driven solely by financial availability.”

It is also understood that a decision on closing 27 police stations was meant to be announced on Friday, but is “now under review”, with a final decision on where the axe could fall now due in the middle of October.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, Russell Findlay, said: “After choking Police Scotland’s budgets for years, the SNP are plotting to further slash officer numbers and close down stations.

The Herald: Conservative justice spokesperson Russell FindlayConservative justice spokesperson Russell Findlay (Image: PA)
“But Humza Yousaf resorts to petty personal attacks to distract from the damage being inflicted by his utter incompetence.

“Frontline officers and communities across Scotland deserve the truth.”

David Threadgold, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, has warned that the current financial set-up risks policing “becoming irrelevant to communities”, which he said was “potentially dangerous to society”.

Mr Threadgold, chairman of the union for Scottish rank and file officers, warned that without proper funding, Scotland risked a situation that was “community policing in name only”.

He said: “I fear that Police Scotland is having to react to further budgetary pressures from the government."

Read more: Humza Yousaf refuses to apologise for accusing Douglas Ross of 'lies'

Amid concerns over police stations closing their doors, Mr Threadgold warned that “the impacts will be on communities and community safety”.

He said: “We are in danger of becoming a reactionary force that has little to no engagement with communities.

“We will be less safe because people will not give us intelligence if we have no presence.

“If we continue without more funding, it will further decimate policing.

“Theres not enough money to deliver policing in its current form.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While this decision is an operational matter for the Chief Constable, we note that this is for a short time and allows Police to focus their resources during a busy period and to ensure the recruitment standard is of the level they expect.

“There are over 350 more police officers than in 2007 and around 1,480 new recruits have joined Police Scotland since the beginning of 2022.

“Scotland has more police officers per capita than England and Wales and higher pay ranges for officers at all ranks and high levels of investment over the last decade.

“Policing is a priority for this Government, which is why despite UK Government austerity, we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17 and have invested more than £11.6 billion in policing since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013 with £1.45 billion being invested this year.

“Recorded crime is also at one of its lowest levels in nearly 50 years.”