Scottish LibDem justice spokesperson Alison McInnes has revealed that the mounted division of Police Scotland has travelled the equivalent of four times around the world, recording more traffic offences than anti-social behaviour offences in the process.
Information obtained through freedom of information laws by the Scottish Liberal Democrats has revealed that the mounted police unit, most commonly associated with controlling large crowds and responding to significant public disorder, recorded 769 road traffic offences, such as failing to wear a seatbelt or using a mobile phone while driving.
In comparison, it recorded 425 anti-social behaviour offences.
The figures published by the party show the national force’s mounted police unit travelled 103,581 miles around the country and cost a total of £1.5m.
The figures come weeks after scores of police counters closed their doors to the public and the closure of control rooms was approved in a bid to cut costs.
Commenting on the figures, Ms McInnes said: “I think people will be surprised that officers on horses have recorded more traffic offences than anti-social behaviour offences.
“We usually think of the mounted unit controlling large crowds and averting significant public disorder. It is entirely right that this resource is available to deal with serious trouble or police big events, and I fully appreciate the work that these highly trained officers do to keep order in potentially difficult circumstances.
“Having clocked up over 100,000 miles in a year, the equivalent of four times around the world, I have to question whether this is really the best use of resources. This overzealous and costly deployment of the unit smacks of nothing more than being seen to share the resources for the sake of it rather than operational necessity.
“It seems that much of the time officers on horses are attending to routine duties that are normally conducted by local officers in a vehicle or on foot, recording offences such as failing to wear a seatbelt or using a mobile phone while driving.
“Police Scotland needs to explain why it believes the use of horses on the streets of places such as Orkney and Inverness is necessary, given that the local police managed fine without them before. People will also wonder why the mounted unit is regularly travelling hundreds of miles from its base in Ayrshire to undertake routine traffic policing duties, tackle retail crime and give out information about how to keep your home safe.
“We need confidence that the use of police resources is being decided at a local level and based on local needs. Our figures raise real concerns over whether this is happening.”