SNP: Tories withhold £140m from Scotland’s emergency services

Police Scotland, unlike other forces in the UK, is not exempt from VAT payments. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

The SNP has accused the Tories of withholding £140m from Scotland’s police and fire services over the last four years.

Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are the only blue-light services unable to recover their VAT bill in the UK.

Both national services were formed in 2013 following the merger of several regional constabularies and fire brigades north of the border.

Police Scotland alone has lost out on nearly £100 million of additional revenue in the last four years, the SNP claimed.

Efforts to convince the UK Government to introduce such an exemption have so far failed.

The party said the Tories’ “stubborn refusal to budge on this issue shows just how little they care about making sure our emergency services have the resources they need”.

SNP candidate for Stirling Steven Paterson said: “This last week has reminded all of us how much we value our emergency services and the job that they do.

“That’s why it is an absolute disgrace that the Tories are holding back nearly £100m that could be being spent on our police force and a further £40m for our fire service.

“By the end of the next Parliament that will be nearly £300m if the Tories don’t do the right thing by our police.

“The Tories are burying their heads in bureaucratic excuses instead of paying up for our public services.

“We have heard police in England this week criticising Tory cuts to police numbers and investment – while in Scotland we have protected our police force. But the Tories are still withholding £140m of funding. Their stubborn refusal to allow the Scottish emergency services to reclaim VAT takes vital funds away from our frontline services.

“It is clear that the Tories cannot be trusted to deliver for Scotland’s emergency services – and they are guilty of taking £140 million away from our police and fire services.”

The Liberal Democrats have already pledged to grant the Scottish emergency services VAT exemption if elected.

The Scottish Conservatives have previously accused the SNP of “playing petty political games” over the issue. A request for an exemption for the Scottish police and fire services was refused by the UK government before the mergers took place.