POLICE Scotland has lost almost 400,000 working days to sickness among staff since being established, it has emerged.
The number of individual officers going on sick leave is also rising, according to figures obtained by the Conservatives under Freedom of Information. It follows concerns over absence rates at the force’s under-fire call centres in the aftermath of the recent M9 double fatality.
Opposition leaders say it shows that the difficulties facing the force since its creation are now taking their toll on rank and file officers.
The figures show that 130,930 police days were lost to sickness among officers last year (2014/15) and 57,575 days for civilian staff. There were a further 149,654 days lost in 2013/14, its first year of operation, and 57,131 police staff days.
The number of individual police officers going on sick leave was 10,170 last year, up from 9,912 the year before, the figures show. The reasons cited for sickness range from heart and circulatory problems nervous system disorders and psychological disorders.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: “The difficulties of Scotland’s new single police force are well documented and, in the case of the M9 crash, have had tragic consequences.
“Now it seems the strain of these difficulties is having an effect on rank and file officers with 400,000 working days lost to staff sickness over the last two years.
“The Scottish Government really needs to get a grip. The people of Scotland need to have public trust in their police force and that trust has been seriously dented due to political failings of the Scottish Government.”
Last week Nicola Sturgeon issued a public apology over the M9 crash tragedy and halted the planned closure of further call centres. John Yuill was found dead inside his car three days after the crash was first reported to police on 5 July. His girlfriend, Lamara Bell, was still alive but died in hospital from dehydration.
It later emerged that the Bilston Glen call centre, covering the crash area, had 15 staff – more than 10 per cent – absent from work on 11 June, less than a month before the tragedy.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government recognises the excellent job undertaken by all the men and women in policing across Scotland. The welfare of these officers and staff is taken very seriously.
“Police Scotland have in place a number of targeted activities to support wellbeing and occupational health across the organisation.
“Earlier this week, the Justice Secretary also announced a package of measures to strengthen policing in Scotland and address areas of concern. This included funding of £1.4 million to be made available to Police Scotland to allow them to accelerate recruitment of 70 to 75 call handling staff.”