Sturgeon blasted for police officer cuts as thousands forced off sick over mental health

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Lib Dem MP reacts to Nicola Sturgeon imposing new restrictions

The Scottish Conservatives have released new statistics, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which show more than 2,200 officers have had to take time off work in the last two-and-a-half years because of mental health issues. This is equal to nearly 110,000 working days being lost, while 68 officers took early retirement on the same grounds during the same period. The SNP’s rivals said that since Ms Sturgeon became Scotland’s First Minister in November 2014, the number of frontline divisional officers has fallen by almost 800 to 12,168.

This figure does not include specialist officers who are shared by several other divisions.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden, who obtained the figures, raged: “It’s deeply concerning, but not entirely surprising, that such a high proportion of police officers are suffering from mental health difficulties.

“Police Scotland staff are under immense strain, not least because the number of divisional officers has been cut by around 800 since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

“In many cases, officers are having to work in crumbling stations and with inadequate equipment too.

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Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have come under fire over police officer cuts (Image: GETTY)

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The SNP are coming intense pressure from their political rivals (Image: GETTY)

“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 Scottish Conservatives want additional money to be spent on improving police cars, stations and crime-fighting equipment.

But in a further blow, the SNP has provided a cash freeze for police capital funding, which is a real-terms cut when inflation is taken into account.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have disclosed separate figures which revealed 166,580 police officer and staff days had been lost to psychological disorders since April 2019.

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Scottish Conservative Maurice Golden launched a blistering attack against the SNP (Image: GETTY)

This showed the 44,312 working days have been lost this year because police officers were signed off with mental health problems, while this figure jumped by more than 3,500 to 23,935 for the force’s administrative staff.

During this year, from April 1 to September 30, 22,163 working days were lost due to psychological disorders for police officers and 12,373 lost for police staff.

Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat 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.”

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The number of frontline divisional officers has plummeted since Nicola Sturgeon became First Ministe (Image: PA)

The Scottish Government said Police Scotland was “one of the first police services in the UK to implement mental health and suicide intervention training for all officers, up to and including the rank of Inspector”.

A spokesman insisted police officer numbers in the country “have been maintained and are favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK”.

He 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 frontline emergency workers more than ever.

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Nicola Sturgeon has been Scotland’s First Minister since November 2014 (Image: EXPRESS)

“Officers and staff can access a range of services to care for their physical and mental health through Police Scotland’s Your Wellbeing Matters programme which includes occupational health, employee assistance and the Trauma Risk Management programme.

“Police Scotland were also one of the first police services in the UK to implement mental health and suicide intervention training for all officers, up to and including the rank of Inspector.

“This benefits the police workforce as well as the public they serve.

“Police officer numbers have been maintained and are favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK, with around 32 officers per 10,000 population in Scotland compared to around 23 in England and Wales.”



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