HELENSBURGH police will have “very limited scope” in the future to pursue thefts of low value items against a backdrop of budget cuts, a local police officer has warned.

The concerns, raised by Helensburgh-based Inspector Barry Convery, have also been echoed by a police union official - who told the Advertiser that the Scottish Government’s Police Scotland budget settlement “will absolutely have a negative impact on Helensburgh”.

Inspector Convery was commenting on the Scottish Government’s budget during the latest meeting of Helensburgh Community Council.

He said that the local force is “just about getting by”.

Insp Convery added: “We have very limited scope. We are expecting that we are going to be very affected by the settlement going forward.”

In September, Police Scotland nationally announced a new pilot scheme where officers would not investigate petty crimes because of resource issues.

According to David Kennedy, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, those funding issues began when Police Scotland was formed back in 2013.

Mr Kennedy claims that at that time, more than £200 million was taken from the annual cost base of policing.

In the 10 years since Police Scotland was formed, around 140 police stations have closed across the country.

With the current budget and settlement in place and with the Scottish Government looking to set the 2024-25 budget next month, the general secretary expected police numbers to fall below the 2007 figure of 16,267.

He warned this could have a noticeable effect on the town with less officers able to tackle local crime.

Mr Kennedy said: “The current budget which has been proposed will not be enough to maintain its current policing model, and that will absolutely have a negative impact on Helensburgh as a community.

“As it currently stands at the moment, with the way the budget has been set, we’ll have less police officers in Scotland than we ever had in 2007, when the current government came into power.”

The 2024-25 Police Scotland budget will be set as part of the Scottish Budget in December.

In response to the concerns raised by Mr Kennedy and Mr Convery, the Scottish Government said that policing is a “priority”.

A government spokesperson said: “Policing is a priority for this government, which is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17, with £1.45bn being invested this year.

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

“Scotland continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales and following the agreed pay deal of 12 per cent over two years, our officers continue to be the best paid at all levels.”

While the government stated that currently there are 350 more officers in 2023 than there were in 2007, statistics show that police numbers have been declining consistently since 2020, and are currently at their lowest since 2008.