SCOTLAND'S Justice Secretary has said he has “no intention” of overseeing a budget that sees 4000 police officers leaving the force, or lockdown-type restrictions returning to prisons.

Keith Brown told MSPs at Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee that while the budget is under pressure due to inflation, he will work to ensure such cuts and restrictions do not happen.

The Scottish Government proposed a flat cash settlement for the justice sector in its resource spending review published earlier this year – meaning funding would fail to keep pace with inflation.

READ MORE: Suella Braverman fails to answer on 'legal and safe routes' for asylum

At earlier meetings, the committee heard from Police Scotland officials who warned that the force may have to pull back from key services like community policing as it eyes budget cuts, with forecasts expecting around 4400 officer and staff jobs could go over four years.

And the chief inspector of prisons in Scotland warned there is a risk the “flat cash” settlement for the justice sector could spark disturbances and said it would reduce the overall budget for prisons “hugely”.

At a meeting of the committee on Wednesday, Tory MSP Jamie Greene said prison officials had stated that they cannot manage against a flat cash settlement without significant adverse impact.

He asked: “Is it the likelihood then, I know it’s difficult to pre-empt what your final budget will look like, but would your expectation be to move money from other areas of the justice directorate budget towards the prison service to avoid that scenario or simply to go to the finance secretary and ask for money from other government departments to fund that?

“Because if you’re making that commitment today, and it’s one of a number of commitments that you’ve made of what you don’t want to see happen, then it’s clear that simply more money is needed.”

Brown said that he has “no intention of overseeing a budget for the police force that results in 4000 officers leaving the police force”.

However, he said that with inflation at 10% and rising, the budget that the Scottish Government has for this year is worth around £1.7 billion less than when it was announced in December when inflation was around 4%.

Replying to Greene, he said: “What I’m saying today in relation to the previous question you asked about whether there would be 4000 fewer police officers, I’m saying that’s not what I intend to see and I’m also saying that I don’t intend to see prison service restrictions of the nature that you describe resulting from financial pressures.

“So I do accept that I’ve got to be accountable for those statements I made but you will know as well that I can’t pre-empt the budget and also there's two steps here which are significant, the first what we can manage to get for the budget as distinct from the indications of the resource spending review for justice, that’s obviously part of my responsibility, and the second stage of that is within the justice portfolio however it’s used to make sure those things don’t happen.”

He added: “We have to live within that budget whatever else is said to make sure those things don’t happen and that’s my intention.”