Concerns over the wellbeing of police officers has led to calls for the force to bring forward a staff survey to highlight issues they face.
The wellbeing survey, which was last carried out in 2015, was due to take place in 2017, but after repeated delays Police Scotland now say it is not expected to happen until next year.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur has warned that the mental wellbeing of staff cannot be “sidelined” and that police bosses should let “rank and file officers tell their own story”.
Mr McArthur said the results of the 2015 survey “shone a light on how undervalued staff and officers felt”, with just 8% of respondents thinking the police force was genuinely interested in staff wellbeing.
Less than a quarter of police officers also said they had the resources they needed to do their job properly.
Mr McArthur said: “Now, while officers are being called to deal with the ever-expanding mental health crisis in Scotland, their own wellbeing has fallen down the to-do list to the extent there is now a four-year delay to the force-wide staff survey.
“The decision to delay was taken before the pandemic hit, and the increase in officer workload that has followed means there’s now all the more reason to check in.
“The police force can’t be expected to pick up the tab of an under-resourced mental health system while their own mental health is being sidelined.
“Those at the top have been keen to claim that policing in Scotland is back on track after the SNP’s botched centralisation. They are less willing to let rank and file officers tell their own story.
“This survey needs to take place as soon as possible.”
In a letter to Mr McArthur, Police Scotland’s director of people and development Jude Helliker said: “The decision to delay the wellbeing survey was taken after detailed and careful consideration to ensure the timing of the survey would support an optimal response rate in order to achieve the most meaningful findings.
“It is my intention to launch the survey after the criticality of the current pandemic abates, with planning currently focused to undertake the survey during 2021.”
Last year, research by the Scottish Lib Dems found that there was an 11% increase in the number of working days lost for police officers due to mental health-related sick leave, and a 25% increase for police staff.
Speaking at FMQs in November, party leader Willie Rennie asked Nicola Sturgeon to take action to improve mental health support for police workers and suggested that the delay to the staff survey was “making people suspicious that it is going to be bad news”.
The First Minister replied: “These are important issues and that is why we are investing in our police service, we are investing in mental health support workers across a range of different settings.
“We made a commitment to do that over this Parliament and we are delivering that commitment over this Parliament.”
She added that the “welfare of police is very important” and argued that the SNP had increased officer numbers since coming to power.