HMICS Assurance Review of Police Scotland Strategic Workforce Planning

02 August 2022

The aim of this review was to highlight the efforts made by Police Scotland to develop its understanding of workforce requirements, as well as identifying areas for improvement as it embarks on the first refresh of its initial Strategic Workforce Plan (SWP).

The review was of the whole organisation’s approach and understanding of workforce planning and was not a specific review of Police Scotland’s SWP Unit, although it plays an important part in developing the SWP and supporting the associated system of planning and delivery.

HMICS assessed the Police Scotland approach under the headings of Appropriateness of the overall approach and methodology used in the development of the SWP and the resulting quality of the plans;

Alignment of the SWP within the overall strategic planning framework and governance;

Application and examination of how the SWP is used to support strategic tasking and co-ordination, medium to longer term resource planning, and operational change programme/projects, maintaining the required level of operational policing capacity with the right skills mix to cope with demand on policing;

Anticipation and consideration of how well the SWP reflects projections for demand on policing services in the future in terms of securing a sustainable policing model.

It identified some fundamental cultural and strategic issues which must be addressed to fully embrace the principles of workforce planning and deliver a sustainable policing model for the future. One of these is the commitment to maintaining police officer numbers at 17234 which HMICS does not believe is supported by evidence.

Effective strategic workforce planning will allow Police Scotland to deliver a policing service within a defined budget; prioritise resources to meet current and predicted service demand and expectations and address a level of ad hoc pressure and demand.

HMICS welcomes the further development of the SWP approach and recognises the challenges Police Scotland faced in the production of its initial plan. It is assured the service is committed to moving forward and taking on board learning from its own processes and this review.

The review contains 10 recommendations and identifies areas for development as well as further steps to be taken to support the iterative approach being taken.




The Scottish Government, SPA and Police Scotland should collectively cease to use 17,234 officers as a target and focus instead on developing a workforce based on the skillset and mix required to meet the current and future challenges for policing in Scotland.


Police Scotland should redesign its workforce planning approach requiring a set of design principles and parameters to facilitate meaningful involvement of senior staff to deliver a consistent design and planning approach.


Police Scotland should establish a clear model and plan for producing a Target Operating Model and set out a route map for its delivery through business planning and change activity.


The SPA and Police Scotland should review governance arrangements and processes, and clearly define how workforce planning decisions will be made and who will oversee their implementation.


Police Scotland should strengthen the links (at all levels in the force) of tasking and co ordination to workforce planning, fully adopting the demand response model to demonstrate how changes in threat, risk and demand translate directly into tactical and resource decisions.


Police Scotland should develop a unified and expanded data science capability within the Demand and Productivity Unit.


The SPA and Police Scotland should progress the development of future scenarios and use them to support the production of a longer-term vision as part of the new Joint Strategy due in 2023.


Police Scotland should focus on two main areas of activity: ■ Develop a strategic assessment of the workforce and a refreshed delivery plan to address the gaps and issues we have identified for consideration by the SPA (by April 2023) ■ As part of that delivery plan, develop a revised methodology to deliver the next iteration of the SWP in April 2024.


Police Scotland should develop a roadmap for delivery of strategic SWP objectives and a programme for workforce change.


The SPA and Police Scotland should put in place measures to monitor progress against the areas for development outlined in this assurance review, ensuring regular reporting at the SPA People Committee to allow assessment of progress.

Publication type: 
Inspection report