Police Officers (Covid-19 Tests)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government how many police officers have been tested for Covid-19. (S5O-04406)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Information received from Police Scotland confirms that, as of 8 June 2020, 914 police officers and staff have been tested for COVID-19.

I would advise the member that Police Scotland publish data on the number of tests arranged. The information is available from the Police Scotland website and is published each week.

The testing of police officers and staff is important and will continue as long as is necessary. Our police officers are on the front line each day. I thank them for the work they do to keep us safe. As the Minister for Community Safety has already said, there is no barrier to accessing testing for police officers or staff.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Police Scotland has more than 17,000 officers and 5,000 staff, but the data to which the cabinet secretary referred suggests that fewer than 300 tests were arranged during the whole of May. The Scottish Police Federation warned that asymptomatic testing was not being offered, and it seems that it is right.

The SPF has asked why Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service guidance allows those arrested for coughing or spitting on officers to be released from custody before trial. Does the cabinet secretary know why that is the case?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

There are two parts to the member’s question. On testing, I repeat what the Minister for Community Safety has confirmed: officers who have been involved in a suspected Covid-positive incident can get tested, even if they are asymptomatic. There is no equivocation on that point.

On the point about the Scottish Police Federation, I always listen carefully to what it has to say. Decisions on who is placed in custody and who is retained on remand are not made by ministers but are independent of them.

If someone has been accused of assaulting police officers, and has a pattern of behaviour of assaulting police officers, I am not entirely convinced that keeping them in a police custody cell, where they would be surrounded by police officers, is necessarily the best course of action. However, I will listen carefully to what the SPF and others have to say on the matter.