The SNP has called for a £175 million VAT debt to be repaid, after analysis found that five years of non-refunded VAT paid to the UK government by Scotland’s territorial police service – which no other territorial police services in the UK had to pay - could have paid for the training of nearly 2,000 new police officers. And this does not include a further £50 million owed to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Whilst Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service no longer pay VAT, they were the only territorial emergency services in the UK unable to reclaim VAT from the UK Treasury for five years, which removed vital funds from the services.
The Tories made a U-turn on the policy in 2017, but only after the police and fire services had been penalised to the tune of £175 million. The SNP has consistently called on the UK Government to refund the money owed so it can be re-invested in Scotland’s emergency services.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP said:
"We welcome the VAT policy change that came into effect in March 2018. However, that did not address the issue of VAT that had already been paid to the Treasury between 2013 and 2018.
“Having conceded the principle that it is unfair to charge VAT only to our services, the UK Government has refused to pay back £125 million to the Scottish Police Authority and £50 million to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service."
“The cost of training a police officer for a two year probation period, including salaries and initial training is £63,600: £31,800 per year. The equivalent in terms of police officers that could be paid for with that £125 million is therefore 1,965.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“The Tories continue to short-change the people of Scotland on a range of issues due to their arrogance and incompetence.
“Scotland police and fire services were the only territorial forces in the UK to be charged VAT, costing frontline services millions of pounds.
“It’s shocking that the Tory government will happily squander billions on a Brexit shambles of their own making, or a pay-off for the DUP but refuse to refund punitive VAT charges which have needlessly deprived Scotland’s emergency services of extra resources.
“For example, 1,965 new police officers in Scotland could be fully trained with the £125 million owed to Police Scotland.
“The damage being done to our essential public services by Tory austerity, cuts, and wasted funds continues. It’s time for the UK government to step up and give Scotland what it is due.”