POLICE Scotland is to launch an investigation after new figures suggested that tests to determine fitness levels of trainee officers are unfair to women.

Figures obtained by The Herald show women officers are more than twice as likely than men to fail the tests during their probationary period.

The force admitted the findings, which reveal eight per cent of female recruits have been left facing the sack if they fail again, were a concern and said a probe was to begin.

When the single force was introduced in April last year, it brought in tough rules that stated probationary officers, who must complete five fitness exams, would be allowed only one failure in two years and must also pass a resit of the failed test. If they fail more than once, they are likely to be sacked.

Trainees must complete a "bleep test", a one-and-a-half mile run keeping pace with an electronic bleep. Although pass rates are set depending on age and gender, statistics show female officers are more likely than men to fail the three "pre-­confirmation" tests, taken after training at police college.

Of 826 men who have taken the tests, just 28 recorded failures, a rate of 3.4 per cent. However, among the 441 women who took the exams, 36 - more than eight per cent - failed one test.

Peter Blair, head of resourcing for Police Scotland, said: "The chief constable is committed to providing an effective and efficient police service that keeps people safe but also to ensure the health and wellbeing of his officers, many of whom carry out a physically demanding role.

"Fitness testing for officers has been a feature of Scottish policing for a number of years. However, Police Scotland regularly reviews policy and practices to ensure that no particular group or individual is disadvantaged. Police Scotland is currently working with staff associations, including the Scottish Police Federation and the Scottish Women's Development Forum to examine fitness testing. Regarding the failure rate among women, this is a concern and it will be investigated."

The Scottish Women's Development Forum (SWDF), a staff association that advises Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Government on gender equality within the force, has previously warned the police could be subject to employment tribunal claims if tests were not seen to be fair. Currently, women aged 29 or younger have 14 minutes to complete the run, compared to 12 minutes for men. For those aged 30 to 39, the time increases to 15 minutes for women and 12 minutes, 30 seconds for males.

The figures showed the vast majority of those who failed the first test passed the second time. Two men and one woman failed a second test and all resigned before being formally considered for dismissal.

Chief Inspector Suzie Mertes, SWDF chairwoman, said: "The SWDF knows that Police Scotland is committed to addressing issues of gender under-representation in the service and we will work with Police Scotland to ensure its fitness testing processes and standards are not inadvertently creating an unnecessary and unjustifiable barrier for women."