DOUGLAS Ross has been accused of sowing panic and pitting communities against each other through the “sensationalism” of a policing pilot scheme in the north east of Scotland.

Speaking at the first First Minister’s Questions of the new Holyrood session, the Scottish Tory leader focused on the news that Police Scotland will trial a new operating model which will see some crimes go uninvestigated.

Under the pilot, reported on Monday, officers in the north east will no longer take action on some minor crimes in order to focus more on emergency response and public safety.

One example of a crime that won’t be investigated is theft from a garden where there is no CCTV or eyewitness evidence.

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Police Scotland said the trial was part of the “hard choices [that] are being made to deliver effective policing within the funding available”.

Raising the pilot at FMQs, Ross claimed the pilot scheme meant it was “open season for criminals under the SNP”.

He said: “SNP funding cuts are forcing dedicated officers to ignore criminal acts. Victims of crime will report it to the police, only to be told it’s not important enough to investigate.

“Will the First Minister tell us, which crimes won’t be investigated?”

In response, Yousaf said the scheme seemed to him like a “proportionate approach to tackling crime”.

He said: “First of all, of course Police Scotland funding is not being cut. I’m pleased to say that despite UK Government austerity, in recognition of the crucial role that police officers play, we’ve just announced this week an excellent pay offer that police officers have accepted and the service is receiving an additional £80 million in resource funding in 23/24.”

He then quoted from the press release about the pilot which Ross had focused on, saying that investigations would not be launched “on some occasions crimes are reported where there is no associated threat, no risk, no harm, no vulnerability – and this is the important bit – also no proportionate lines of enquiry for police officers to investigate”.

But Ross claimed the pilot was “unfairly treating communities in the north east as guinea pigs”.

“They’ll receive a poorer service despite paying their taxes like everyone else,” he went on.

“Humza Yousaf wouldn't let this rash experiment happen in Glasgow, so why is he content to let victims in the north east go without justice.”

The National:

As the chamber grew more animated, Yousaf (above) hit back: “That is complete and utter nonsense, turning one community in Scotland against another.

“What else would you expect? What else would you expect from the divisive Conservatives?”

Yousaf said the issue was “of course a policing operational matter”, adding that Scotland has more police per head than England or Wales, “and of course, on significantly higher pay”.

The First Minister said that while there are 30 police officers for every 10,000 people north of the Border, that figure is 25 per 10,000 in England and Wales.

READ MORE: Scottish police will not investigate every crime under new pilot scheme

Ross again went on the pilot scheme, finishing: “It’s open season for criminals under the SNP.

“Why is the First Minister telling offenders that they can break the law and get away with it here in Scotland?”

Yousaf responded: “Douglas Ross with that question demonstrates why he should never ever be allowed to be First Minister of this country. Panicking people. Alarming people. Sensationalism. All for cheap political headlines.”

The SNP leader insisted his government was getting on with investing in the police force despite Westminster austerity, and claimed Ross had “no credibility” to speak about public finances due to his support for Tory policies including Liz Truss’s “disastrous mini budget”.