SCOTLAND's Chief Constable has issued a thinly veiled warning for public figures to mind their language on immigration as his force braces for Brexit.

Iain Livingstone and other senior officers have long stressed that community relations north of the border remain good despite an upswing in xenophobia in England following the 2016 referendum.

Speaking to his main watchdog, the Scottish Police Authority on Wednesday, he offered reassurances to EU migrants that hate crimes would not be tolerated.

But he added that wider civic society also had to act responsibly. Mr Livingstone said: "We will always work very closely with the diverse communities of Scotland.

But I think there are also duties on others in public life to make sure the language that is used is reasonable and stays within the confines of the law."

Mr Livingstone was responding to what he called "very pertinent" remarks from an SPA member, former senior police officer Tom Halpin.

Mr Halpin had said: "For people in communities right now there is a level of fear we need to address, particularly those who are EU citizens who feel a personal vulnerability and uncertainty and then there there is an intolerance to migration that comes through that.

"Is there a message you could give us today that would help reassure those citizens in terms of not what we are doing now?"

Mr Livingstone replied: "The profile of Scottish society has become far more diverse. You can go in to any city, county or rural or island area and there will be significant representatives from the EU.

"Part of our approach is to be close that community and give reassurance. We will not tolerate any form of hate crime, any form of abuse or hatred.

"We keep under very very close scrutiny not only reported hate crime incidents or hate crime reports but anything regarding an upturn in tensions."

He added to Mr Halpin: "At this stage we have not not seen an increase in community tension but you are right to raise it and give me the opportunity to reassure everybody that regardless of your nationality, we are your police service."

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Mr Livingstone also outlined Brexit contingency plans to the SPA, but only in private.

However, he also repeated that he was unhappy that extra funding had not been made available to allow his force to deal with fall-out from leaving the EU.

He said: "The financial sustainability that we need to establish will be threatened by some of the operational decisions I need to make around Brexit.

"There is a significant risk that without additional funding, the budget will result in a larger deficit than previously stated if officer numbers are retained at current levels.

"In this regard, it is important to publicly underline that the consequences of Brexit have not yet led to necessary additional funding being allocated to Scottish policing.

"My key priority will remain ensuring the citizens of Scotland are effectively protected, policed and kept secure.

"I understand UK Treasury funding has been made available to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in regard to their Brexit contingency funding, to policing and law enforcement in England and Wales."

Mr Livingstone had already warned that he would put off cost-saving plans to reduce officer numbers by 300 in 2019-20.

He confirmed moves to recruit around 100 extra officers to deal with the issue. Cutting officer numbers had been designed to save £12.6 million. The force - and the SPA - had a deficit of £34m last year.

He outlined "concerns about the lack of additional resource", in light of the "demanding plan" to eliminate the deficit by 2021.

He said: "While we remain focused on building a sustainable, financially disciplined service going forward, there is real acute imminent pressure on policing at the moment and I would really welcome some additional funding as some of my chief constable colleagues in other parts of the UK have already benefited from."

SPA chairwoman Susan Deacon said her organisation shares his concerns and will write to the Scottish Government to quantify the funding required.
She said the letter will stress the "hope and belief that it would be possible for additional contingency funding to be made available" either from either the Scottish or UK Government.

She added: "These provisions have been put in place in others parts of the UK and I think it is not unreasonable that we should look for the equivalent here."

In December, the Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said up to 900 more police were needed in Scotland to cope with Brexit.