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Police Officers (Health)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th December 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reports that a large number of police officers are going to work while physically and mentally unwell. (S5O-03885)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Police officers and police staff do an excellent job in often very difficult circumstances. It is only right that they have access to appropriate support, and I know that the police take that extremely seriously.

While the welfare and wellbeing of Police Scotland officers and staff are the responsibility of the chief constable, I very much support initiatives that are being undertaken by Police Scotland to create a safe, positive and healthy working environment.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

We all agree that the police on our streets do a great job. However, the fact is that, against a backdrop of cuts, there have been rising levels of sick leave, with almost half of officers suffering from exhaustion and one in five experiencing insomnia. Will the cabinet secretary guarantee that police officers will be given the vital resources and support that they need?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I am astounded by Jeremy Balfour’s brass neck in talking about “a backdrop of cuts” in policing. Over the decade, his party has cut 20,000 officers. Even the promise of increasing police officer numbers by 20,000 is simply about getting policing back to the standard that it was at before his party made those cuts. If the Conservatives followed Scotland’s lead, they would have to increase their police officer numbers by 27,000. I will not take a lecture on “a backdrop of cuts” when Jeremy Balfour’s party has cut this Government’s budget over the past decade.

On the substance of the question, Police Scotland takes issues of physical and mental wellbeing extraordinarily seriously—I am satisfied that it does so, as I have said previously. On whether there is more that can be done, I look forward to receiving the research from the Scottish Police Federation, to which I think Jeremy Balfour alluded. Once I have that research, I will, of course, be more than happy to work with the chief constable and Police Scotland. The Scottish Police Federation, the Scottish Police Authority, Police Scotland, and, indeed, the Government have a shared endeavour to ensure that our officers are supported in what is an extremely difficult job. We will continue to support them by investing in our police service and by ensuring that revenue is protected and—as has been done over the past financial year—that the capital budget is increased.