Surge in officers quitting Police Scotland

THE number of police officers who hand in their notice has risen by 43 per cent each year since the inception of Police Scotland.

Police have warned of a climate of intimidation. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Police have warned of a climate of intimidation. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Almost as many officers have resigned in the first 15 months of Police Scotland than during the previous two years when there were eight separate Scottish police forces.

A total of 296 officers have quit the force in the time since Police Scotland was formed in April 2013 up to July this year.

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This is compared to 331 over the previous two-year period.

Police officers have warned of a “culture of intimidation and bullying” in the new service and claimed that officers are leaving the profession in droves to 
escape poor working conditions and targets for controversial practices such as stop and search.

Officers have spoken of rest days being cancelled at short notice and being sent to jobs at the other end of the country on a regular basis. The risk of being sent to another part of the country is putting off those with care commitments from taking any form of career advancement.

“We are also hearing these rumours of people flocking to leave the force,” said Superintendent Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents. “But I think we have to let things settle to see how the introduction of Police Scotland has had an impact on the number of people leaving the force.”

Rest days have been cancelled for “one off” events such as the Commonwealth Games and events related to the independence referendum – which officers claim has eroded family life.

Mr Rennie added: “What we are undoubtedly seeing is an erosion of police pay and conditions. Rest days may be getting cancelled more often for big events following the move to a national force, but officers do have to get them back later.

“I am not saying there is not a greater demand placed on them in a national force, but they need to recognise that we are all in the same boat. It is for the good of the public.”

Police Scotland is under the jurisdiction of Sir Stephen House, who has recently come under fire for allowing police to carry guns on the street.

Graeme Pearson MSP, Labour’s justice spokesman, said he had been contacted by officers raising concerns over conditions in the new national force.

“They have indicated that a number of colleagues have left the service because of the changes [following the introduction of Police Scotland],” he said.

“The sad bit is that these officers who have left the force have had a substantial investment of public money in their training and skills, which has now been lost.”

A staff questionnaire is due to be distributed to Police Scotland staff to gauge their opinions on the national force.

A further 518 officers have retired from the force in the year and three months since the formation of Police Scotland, compared to 726 in the previous two years.

Overall, 1,152 officers have left the force in the two years before Police Scotland was formed, followed by a further 842 in the time since. Other reasons for leaving, apart from resignation or retirement, included a transfer of job.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Police Authority, which is tasked with holding the Chief Constable to account, said: “With any large organisation, there will be variances in the number of people leaving throughout the lifetime of that organisation.

“It’s important not to take numbers in isolation but to look at trends and the reasons why there are any increases.

Police Scotland said the figures did not give it “cause for concern”.

A spokeswoman said: “Whilst there has been an increase in staff members leaving the organisation there is no specific trend which would give us cause for concern.”