Policing should not be drawn into the “toxic” public debate around hate crime, a leading officer is set to say.

Association of Scottish Police Superintendents president Chief Superintendent Rob Hay will tell the group’s centenary conference in the Borders that while officers have an important role in policing genuine hate crime, they must not be drawn into the “petty point scoring” filling much of the debate.

He will raise his concerns that attempts to “weaponise” hate crime is diverting already stretched police resources from those who actually need them.

Mr Hay will also tell the conference Police Scotland is now “woefully under-resourced” and will discuss how this could affect recent progress made in curbing violent crime.

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The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on April 1, creating a new stirring-up offence for some protected characteristics.

These characteristics include age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

More than 7,000 complaints were made online in the first week the Act came into effect and earlier this month it emerged the total number of complaints was close to reaching 10,000.

Mr Hay will say: “The divisive, political and toxic nature of some of the debate raging in wider society is not a place policing should ever inhabit.

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“The flood of spurious complaints received upon the enactment of the new hate crime legislation is an example of the mischief-making we have seen, undertaken with spiteful glee and diverting police resources from those in actual need.

“So, let us be pacifists in the culture war as we have no interest in investigating Humza Yousaf for describing some white people as being white; nor are we interested in arresting JK Rowling, no matter how much she tweets about it.”

Addressing recent figures showing Police Scotland now has its lowest number of officers in 16 years, Mr Hay will reflect on the Scottish Government’s previous promise to recruit 1,000 extra officers and the difference they made in targeting street gangs and reducing knife crime

He will point out since then the workforce has shrunk to pre-2009 levels – around 16,356 full-time equivalent officers at the end of March – and the lowest since the end of September 2008, according to government figures.

Mr Hay will say: “The tale of how Scotland ‘beat’ knife crime is usually told through the lens of the violence reduction unit (VRU). Nobody would deny the pioneering nature of the work the VRU undertook and have championed to this day.

“What is often forgotten, however, is 1,000 additional officers recruited into policing in 2007, all of whom went to frontline community policing. What is forgotten is the unprecedented targeting of active street gangs for proactive enforcement that went side-by-side with preventative interventions.

“What is forgotten is that everyone caught in possession of a knife would appear in custody, where bail would be opposed if they had previous convictions for similar offences. The success achieved was done so by blending progressive, novel approaches with conventional, visible, proactive policing measures.”

The conference will run throughout the day on Tuesday, May 21. New Chief Constable of Police Scotland Jo Farrell is also expected to address the gathering.