The downturn in the North Sea oil industry could prove the answer to the police’s long-term recruitment headache in the north-east.
Shortages in the former Grampian division, covering Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray, were the highest of anywhere in Scotland in October last year.
Indeed, Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson, divisional commander for the north-east, admitted his compliment was 50 officers short.
However, 39 new recruits joined the ranks in December and up to 50 are expected to start work next month.
Prior to the oil downturn, it was common for officers to be hired from outside the area, before returning home due to the cost of living in the north-east.
But now, Ch Supt Thomson is confident the staffing challenges are over and is hopeful local recruits will stay in the region.
He said: “Recruitment has been a challenge for the whole former Grampian division, as with any public sector in the north-east.
“As a result, we saw a number of recruits from other areas in Scotland to make up the numbers.
“They delivered an excellent service, but it was very challenging for them due to the cost of living and they were drawn back to their homes.
“As we’re all aware, the economic position has changed and, as a result of significant work, we’re now drawing local recruits in the area.”
A report, prepared for yesterday’s meeting of Moray Council’s police and fire and rescue services committee, explained police had historically struggled to attract applicants because of the “lucrative” oil industry.
Fire officers also revealed they had seen an improvement in their recruitment in recent months.
Ch Supt Thomson told members the staffing levels were likely to stabilise in June for the first time since the single force was established in 2013 and temporary positions would start to become permanent.
He added: “There might be concerns about a lot of younger officers starting, but I have been nothing but impressed with the calibre of officer recruited and their commitment to local communities.”
Buckie councillor, Sonya Warren, was eager to see efforts made to encourage women to apply for roles in the police.
Meanwhile, Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor, Douglas Ross, expressed concerns on hearing that learning health standards for applicants had been lowered.
He said: “You should be at your fitness peak when you join an organisation. It’s concerning that officers that weren’t considered fit enough before are now getting into the force.”