Scottish police officers demand 'right to strike' as part of pay claim

Police Scotland officers have demanded the right to take limited industrial action as part of a new pay claim to the Scottish Government which could potentially pave the way for the first law enforcement strikes in over a century.

In future pay disputes such strike action could include the refusal to police football games and other duties where the lack of officers in attendance would not risk public safety, it is understood.

In a letter to the Police Negotiating Board, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF)has also called for a tapered reduction in the number of hours police officers are expected to work from 40 hours to 35 by 2024 and a pay rise of 3.4 per cent for all officers.

This is compared to the Scottish Government’s planned rise of between £500 and £700 for public sector employees on middle to lower paygrades.

Police officers are seeking the right to take industrial action in their recent pay claim

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It is understood the SPF, which represents all officers up the the rank of chief inspector, special constables and cadets, wants to see demonstrable evidence of how much the government values the fact police officers are legally prohibited from taking strike action as part of this year’s pay award.

If this does not happen, the SPF has demanded the creation of a “framework” to allow officers to take “lawful forms of industrial action”.

Ministers agreeing to a limited framework of when police officers can take industrial action would potentially pave the way for the first strike in any police force in the United Kingdom for more than a century.

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Officers were banned from joining trade unions under the Police Act 1919 following the strikes of 1918 and 1919.

The SPF has said the government’s ‘Public Sector Pay Policy’ – which sets policy across public bodies – does not adequately take into account this unique position which had been previously recognised in the Edmund-Davies review of police pay in the 1970s.

Calum Steele, SPF general secretary, states in the letter that industrial action has had a “significant impact” on pay awards for sectors such as education, adding the “absence of industrial rights is a significant curtailment on the human rights of police officers”

He continues: “The absence of these factors in seeking to develop consistent rates of pay for roles with the same job weighting, and the expectation police officers will be treated the same, is in itself incoherent.”

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“Absent any evidence and demonstrable value placed on these restrictions and limitations, in any pay award, that a framework be agreed to allow police officers (below the chief officer ranks) to take lawful forms of industrial action.

"Such industrial action to include the withdrawal of labour, or police functions, where such action does not risk public safety.”

The letter to the Police Negotiating Board also points to “antipathy and mistrust” from officers towards those in charge of police pay, namely the Scottish Government, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), and Police Scotland.

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Police Scotland and the Scottish Government praised the commitment of officers but said they were unable to substantively comment on the pay negotiations as they are ongoing, with the Scottish Government stating it did not “wish to prejudice the outcome” of the discussions.

A spokesperson for the SPA added: “Negotiations are ongoing and we remain committed to working with the Staff Side to seek to reach an agreement.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

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