Police Scotland accused of denying women promotion

Police Scotland claims its policies do not disadvantage women. The highest ranks of the single force, however, reflect continued male domination. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Police Scotland claims its policies do not disadvantage women. The highest ranks of the single force, however, reflect continued male domination. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE formation of Scotland’s single police force has created “additional barriers” for female officers aiming to progress through the ranks, a retiring ­superintendent has warned.

Alex Duncan said removing “mobility protection” – which under the previous eight forces limited relocation within each region – meant officers with childcare and other home commitments feared promotion could force them to move anywhere in the country.

Alex Duncan. Picture: Fife Photo Agency

Alex Duncan. Picture: Fife Photo Agency

His comments were backed by the Scottish Women’s Development Forum (SWDF), a police staff association, which said the new force was “not trusted” and had risked alienating anyone unable to comply.

In 2013, women accounted for 28 per cent of “officer” posts, up from 18 per cent in 2003. They made up a fifth (20 per cent) of all promoted posts, up from just 8 per cent a decade before.

Supt Duncan, a former chairman of the SWDF, said Police Scotland’s recruitment policy was “unfair and discriminatory”.

In a letter to The Scotsman, he writes: “The formation of a single police force in Scotland in itself has created additional barriers to some under-represented groups joining the service as well as those applying for promotion. In particular, the removal of mobility protection for new officers and staff is a significant barrier for those with caring responsibilities.

“Already, there are signs that the implementation of ‘one size fits all’ policy is having an adverse impact on the recruitment of females. Indeed, some recruits have withdrawn during initial training because of a policy which sees officers potentially being required to move significant distances across Scotland.

“In terms of females or indeed anyone with caring responsibilities, the impact of such a policy on their families and dependants makes this difficult and in my estimation is not only unfair but is discriminatory.”

Supt Duncan said having fewer ­female officers made it more ­difficult for the force to reflect the public it serves.

The reorganisation took place last year and is intended to save £1.1 billion by 2026. Chief Superintendent Angela Wilson, now chair of the SWDF, said recent police reforms risked “eroding” progress. She said: “The SWDF has expressed concerns in regards to recruitment, selection and promotion processes should officers be liable to be posted anywhere in Scotland.

“Safeguards and restrictions require to be in place as there is a strong likelihood that this decision would disproportionately affect women, particularly those with caring responsibilities.

“Despite reassurances from Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, officers do not trust the new service and we know numerous female officers who have made the decision not to go for promotion or specialist posts for the fear of losing their geographical protection.

“Police Scotland is at serious risk of recruiting and retaining a workforce of clones – only those who are footloose and fancy free.”

Police Scotland said mobility protection remained in place.

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson added: “The number of female police officers has increased in the last ten years [and] the career path has been significantly ­enhanced.

“We are developing proposals that will ensure opportunities for more flexible employment and training for all officers, in terms of location and greater opportunities for specialisms.”