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MSPs seek more evidence on police retirement rates as force’s account questioned

The Scottish Police Federation said police are ‘overworked and undervalued’ (Nick Potts/PA)
The Scottish Police Federation said police are ‘overworked and undervalued’ (Nick Potts/PA)

MSPs have said they will ask Police Scotland for more evidence on retirement rates within the force, after the organisation which represents officers accused it of presenting a “demonstrably untrue” picture of the situation.

One MSP said it is “vital we get to the bottom of this”, as Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee discussed evidence it received from Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation (SPF).

The committee received a letter from Police Scotland deputy chief officer David Page which noted 321 officers had retired from the service in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 69% on the five-year average.

It said this was due to changes in pension policy and there was “no impact to service delivery”, while acknowledging the loss of officers from across all ranks would present challenges.

A subsequent letter from SPF general secretary Calum Steele strongly disputed the earlier correspondence.

He said: “Our members are telling us that they are overworked and undervalued.

“They tell us they have their rest constantly disrupted; they tell us they are being made physically and mentally unwell by the tolls of a job that simply heaps more and more work on those who have literally nothing left to give.

“Quite simply, the reason police officers are choosing to retire is because they have had enough.

“Mr Page states ‘at this time there is no impact to service delivery’. This is demonstrably untrue and verging on the deliberately disingenuous.”

Conservative MSP Russell Findlay said: “I think it’s quite extraordinary that the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation is effectively saying Police Scotland are misleading us as MSPs and as a committee.

Scottish Police Memorial Service
One MSP said the officers retiring were ‘perfectly entitled’ to do so (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“I think it’s absolutely vital we get to the bottom of this.”

SNP MSP Rona Mackay said the majority of those leaving the police had more than 25 years’ service and were “perfectly entitled” to retire.

She said: “I appreciate the concerns, I don’t think we should hit the panic button because they will sort this out.”

Committee convener Audrey Nicoll said the committee will write to Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority on the issue.