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Police chief’s explosive car park tax criticism revealed

Ministers have performed a u-turn and now revealed an explosive letter from police chiefs about the impact on officers of the SNP’s car park tax.

The Scottish Government initially refused to release the letter from Scottish Police Federation general secretary Calum Steele.

However, the Scottish Conservatives appealed that decision and the document can now be revealed.

In his letter, Mr Steele told justice secretary Humza Yousaf:

  • Police officers using public transport “along fixed routes at fixed times” would be vulnerable to attacks from criminals they’d brought to justice
  • With elevated terror levels police who could no longer use their cars were even more at risk given “a specific terror threat” had been identified against them
  • The car par tax could increase the chance of police officers’ homes being targeted
  • The levy would be a “bureaucratic nightmare” for Police Scotland

Mr Yousaf ducked the letter, instead passing to his predecessor Michael Matheson to handle in his role as transport minister.

He said he stood by the plans, describing them repeatedly as a “Green amendment”.

The Scottish Government initially tried to keep the letter secret, saying it was protected because it contained “free and frank advice and exchange of views”.

But that has been over-ruled after officials stated “a different decision should be substituted”.

In his letter, Mr Steele said: “You will also be aware that the current terrorism threat assessment is severe with a specific severe threat identified against police officers. In response to this threat police officers are advised not to travel to work in visible uniform. I would welcome your views on how this ought to be managed if they are to be penalised for seeking to keep themselves safe by travelling to work by car.”

He added: “Police officers can also be targeted by those they come into conflict with during their tour of duty. The likelihood of officers themselves being targeted increases exponentially if they are forced to take public transport (along fixed routes and at fixed times) to and from their places of work. This also increases the likelihood of the targeting of their homes.”

And he concluded: “In any event any expectation this ought to be met from a depleted service budget is as iniquitous as any suggestion police officers should have to pay for the dubious privilege of putting themselves in harm’s way to keep the citizens of Scotland safe.”

The Scottish Conservatives tabled a series of amendments to the car park tax legislation, which would have exempted a number of groups – including police, teachers and people on benefits – but those were rejected by other political parties.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said:

“Police officers are just one of many groups who are vehemently opposed to the SNP’s car park tax plans.

“But this explosive letter shows not only their anger about it, but the very real risks they will face as a consequence.

“These brave men and women put themselves in the line of fire every single day so Scotland can remain a safe, civilised country.

“Yet the SNP wants to make it more difficult for them to do this with these ludicrous proposals.

“The SNP government should pay attention to what police are saying and drop these plans altogether.”

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