HEAVILY armed police officers guarding Scotland’s nuclear plants have accused the UK Government of jeopardising national security by expecting them to work until their late 60s.

The body representing the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), which has several hundred Scots-based officers at Hunterston, Torness and Dounreay Nuclear Facilities, said its members would lack the fitness and weaponry skills to carry out their duties while continuing to work as pensioners.

It warned officers could not fully protect the public from terrorism if they worked beyond 60.

Unlike other forces, CNC officers will soon be required to continue working until the age of 67 or 68. Regular working days require them to be routinely armed with three weapons over 12-hour shifts.

The Civil Nuclear Police Federation (CNPF) lost a High Court case last August to allow its officers to retire at the same age as colleagues in regular forces but has now written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking her to join their campaign.

In its letter, the Federation said: “It is surely inconceivable that the public and other representative bodies will have confidence that the civil nuclear facilities and the transportation of nuclear material can be safely protected by aggressively armed officers in their mid to late sixties.

“What makes the proposed retirement age so unrealistic is that it takes no account of the following facts: the CNC’s vast majority 1250 operational officers...work four day 12 hour shifts, are routinely armed with three weapon systems and carry 30kilos of protective gear and respiratory equipment.

“It is a medical fact that officer’s health and dexterity will decline from their late 50s. Few male officers and certainly no female officers will still pass the test at 60 plus. This clearly raises an equality issue which is also being ignored.”

The Public Service Pensions Act 2013 created an exemption for those working for a “police force” but the judge in last summer’s case said, in legal terms, the CNC officers were not “members of a police force” and there were “distinct and distinguishing differences” to other forces.

It was reported in recent months that there have been 130 security breaches over the past five years, including a missing gun, at the UK’s nuclear sites, two which were classed as high risk and two as medium risk.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The pensions arrangements of the Civil Nuclear Police Authority are reserved to the UK Government. We will consider Mr Dennis’ letter when it is received and will reply in due course.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to maintaining British national security and the protection of its nuclear power sites and supporting those who perform this role.

“We noted the judgement of the court and continue to work with the Civil Nuclear Police Authority to put in place the required pension arrangements, within the parameters set out in legislation.”