Significant investment could be made into Scotland’s police and fire services if the UK Government was to pay back VAT, according to Humza Yousaf.
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice made the comment during a committee hearing in Holyrood scrutinising the impact of reforms to the services.
The organisations became liable for tax after merging from regional into national bodies in 2013.
They paid £35m a year in the tax since being created, although Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in 2017 they would be made exempt.
Any of us that have interacted with the police will understand and believe absolutely that there is a need to invest in ICTJustice Minister Humza Yousaf
In a written submission to the committee, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) stated the “full benefits of police reform will not be evidenced until the national IT systems are in place”.
Mr Yousaf acknowledged the need to invest in information and communications technology (ICT) in the service and said if backdated VAT was invested, it could provide a welcome boost.
He said: “Any of us that have interacted with the police will understand and believe absolutely that there is a need to invest in ICT.
“It’s always being pursued, for sure. It would make a substantial difference to investment in the police, including of course into ICT if we got that £175m between the two organisations, the vast majority of that for police.
“I have to say, I’m not holding my breath to see any movement from the UK Government on that.”
Mr Yousaf added: “The ICT asks from Police Scotland is in and around the £300m mark, or just shy of that.
“The VAT would perhaps go a fair way in helping with that investment.”
Earlier this year, the Scottish Police Authority announced in its budget for 2018-2019 that it would invest £15.2m in its ICT infrastructure to create a single national network and give users the ability to log on from any location in the country.
In September, Police Scotland’s deputy chief constable Fiona Taylor called the service’s ICT system “economically inefficient”and detrimental to the public.