Police Scotland is preparing to introduce a hijab to its uniform in a bid to encourage more Muslim women to join the force.

The hijab, which covers the head and neck, has been ‘sourced and tested’ by police. It will now be presented to a uniform standards working group for consideration.

The proposals are designed to increase the number of Muslim women applying to join the force and address the under-representation of officers from ethnic minorities.

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Figures revealed that just 2.6 per cent of the applications received by Police Scotland in 2015/16 were from black and Asian candidates.

The force would need to recruit a further 650 candidates from ethnic minorities to reflect the four per cent of the Scottish population who come from black and Asian backgrounds, something it says is currently 'unachievable'.

Peter Blair, head of resource management at Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland is committed to working with communities to encourage under-represented groups to consider policing as a career.

HeraldScotland:

“Part of this involves removing unnecessary barriers, which include considerations about the officers’ uniform. As a result, work has been undertaken to source a uniform hijab.”

The Scottish Police Muslim Association said the hijab proposals were a ‘step in the right direction’.

Under the current rules, Police Scotland officers must get permission from their line manager before being allowed to wear a hijab while on duty.

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It is understood officers will not require to obtain permission to wear the new standard issue hijabs if they become part of the uniform.

Hijabs are currently worn by Muslim women in police forces in England and worldwide.

Chief Constable Phil Gormley told ministers at the home affairs select committee last month that the force had ‘diversity challenges’ which included the number of ethnic minority officers and women in senior roles.

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The force is now embarking on a number of initiatives to improve its diversity, including outreach events and a questionnaire.

Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “Anything that can help increase diversity within the service is surely to be welcomed and I don’t see why anyone would have any problem with that.”

Last year the Liberal Democrats called for immediate action after figures showed that only 175 officers out of Police Scotland’s 17,000 strong force identified as black, Asian or minority ethnic.