Thousands of police have signed off sick with mental health problems after Nicola Sturgeon’s government drastically cut the number of frontline divisional officers, it was alleged on Monday.
The Scottish Conservatives unveiled statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showing more than 2,200 officers have been forced to take time off work with mental health issues in the past two and a half years alone.
This led to the equivalent of almost 110,000 working days being lost. In the same period, 68 officers took early retirement on the same grounds.
The Tories said the "shocking" figures were a sign of the additional pressures placed on Police Scotland thanks to the SNP government cutting officer numbers.
‘It’s deeply concerning that such a high proportion are suffering’
They said the number of frontline divisional officers has fallen by almost 800 to 12,168 since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister in late 2014. This excludes specialist officers who are shared by different divisions.
Maurice Golden, the Scottish Tory MSP who obtained the figures, said: "It’s deeply concerning, but not entirely surprising, that such a high proportion of police officers are suffering from mental health difficulties.
“In many cases, officers are having to work in crumbling stations and with inadequate equipment too. Yet astonishingly, in this month’s budget, the SNP chose to cut the police capital spending budget – ignoring Scottish Conservatives calls for a £36.5 million increase in spending."
The Conservatives had said the extra cash should be spent upgrading police cars, stations and crime-fighting equipment. However, the SNP has provided a cash freeze for police capital funding, which is a real-terms cut when inflation is taken into account.
Separate statistics disclosed by the Liberal Democrats showed 166,580 police officer and staff days lost to psychological disorders since April 2019.
The number of working days lost because police officers were signed off with mental health problems increased by 899 to 44,312 this year. For the force’s administrative staff the total surged by more than 3,500 to 23,935.
Already this year, between Apr 1 and Sept 30, 22,163 working days have been lost due to psychological disorders for police officers and 12,373 lost for police staff.
Numbers to call
‘The Scottish Government has failed to provide officers with the support they need’
Liam McArthur, the Lib Dem justice spokesman, said: “These figures show the brutal toll that mental ill health is taking on the national force. The mental health of officers and staff can no longer be sidelined.
“Police officers are often the ones to assist us in our moments of greatest need, yet the Scottish Government has failed to provide officers and staff with the support they need to manage their own mental health."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We greatly value the work of Scotland’s police officers who are doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances.
“We continue to support initiatives being undertaken by the Chief Constable to ensure police officers and staff are physically and mentally healthy at a time when Scotland needs its front-line emergency workers more than ever."
He said police officer numbers had been "maintained" and were "favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK", with 32 officers per 100,000 of population compared with 23 in England and Wales.