STRUGGLING police officers in rural Scotland have been forced to attend incidents in their pyjamas after being called out of bed in the middle of the night, it has been claimed. 

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents rank and file officers, said the force was now at crisis point in many parts of the country.

It said a lack of available staff meant off-duty officers had been forced to rush to ongoing incidents while 
still wearing their nightwear, and with no time to grab their protective equipment.

Shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr called on the Scottish Government to increase police numbers to keep officers and the public safe. 

He said: “This is a pretty ridiculous state of affairs but could become extremely serious if officers are being called to incidents, ill-equipped and sleepy.

“These are the real consequences of the SNP’s failure to ensure all of Scotland has enough frontline officers.

“Officers cannot operate under these conditions indefinitely and no wonder so many are buckling under the pressure. The SNP has to increase police numbers and keep our officers and the public safe.”

Liam McArthur, justice spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats,  said: “Calling out bobbies in blue 
pyjamas is no way to tackle crime.

“It’s time for Police Scotland to conduct the long overdue staff survey and listen to what officers and staff believe is necessary to bolster the overstretched police service and make their jobs more manageable.”

Paul Connelly, chairman of the west area committee of the SPF, said a lot of rural communities no longer have a police presence. 

He said officers had been forced to rush to incidents in their pyjamas where there was a direct threat to a fellow officer or member of the public, and the nearest on-duty officer was too far away.

He said: “We have had incidents where folk are sitting in their bed clothes and running out to go and assist colleagues in their night attire – sticking a pair of trainers on and a fleece over essentially what they were going to wear to their bed and running out, because they’ve had a phone call to say their colleagues are struggling with someone.”

Asked if that meant police were running out to incidents in their pyjamas, he said: “Yeah. Stick a fleece on, and a pair of trainers on, and run and go and assist your colleagues.

“That was an extreme example, but that has happened. That has happened recently.”

Asked how many times this had happened, he said: “More than once.”

Mr Connelly added: “By and large, they don’t keep their batons or handcuffs in their houses – they are keeping them in police stations. They don’t have time. They’ve got to go direct.

“That was an extreme example, but they are going direct. It’s expected of officers in rural communities that they will keep themselves available and get called out.”

It is claimed one off-duty officer was forced to rush to the scene in his pyjamas during a recent incident on Bute. This was disputed by Police Scotland.

Scottish police officers are equipped with a range of items to help them carry out their jobs safely. 

These include handcuffs, a baton, incapacity spray, body restraint straps and body armour to protect against stab wounds and other weapons.

Not every officer carries a Taser, although the Scottish Police Federation wants the whole force to be equipped with them.

Mr Connelly said arriving at an incident without these could put officers in danger. 

He said: “You have to strike a balance – do I get there in time to assist my colleagues, or do I wait until I’m fully equipped?”

He said parts of Scotland were operating at one-third of their operational baseline – a “very rough and ready calculation” indicating how many officers should be on duty at any one time. 

He added: “That’s the reality of it. And I know some of our critics say we shouldn’t be putting that out because people will know how thin on the ground we are. 

“The only people who don’t know how thin on the ground we are, are – for want of better words – thelaw-abiding, tax-paying citizens. “People who are causing the crime and anti-social behaviour – they know how thin cops on the ground are, because they are not getting challenged in the way they were a few years ago.”

Mr Connelly said officers are faced with skyrocketing demands for their time, while the job itself has become increasingly complicated in the wake of rising cybercrime and allegations of historical sexual abuse.

He said: “There aren’t sufficient numbers of officers for the amount of work that needs to be carried out. That’s across the piece. It’s especially acute in rural communities.”

The SNP recently highlighted statistics showing officer numbers have risen by 1,025 to 17,259 since the party took power in 2007.

However, Calum Steele, general secretary of the SPF, previously said such numbers have to be placed “in the context of where they are across Scotland”.

He said the Scottish Government “provides inadequate funding to maintain these numbers, so maintaining these numbers comes at a significant detriment to the rest of the service”. 

He added: “One of the ways that manifests itself is officers are increasingly being drawn to the more urban areas to the detriment of the rural areas.”

In May, the SPF uncovered a raft of problems with police facilities in Argyll and Bute and West Dunbartonshire following several “deep dive” inspections, with Oban police station branded the worst 
in Scotland.

Mr Steele said it was “almost difficult to put into words just how horrific some of the conditions were that our officials found”.

Grim discoveries included mushrooms growing on towels in Dunoon and a longstanding rat infestation at Lochgilphead station, while accommodation for officers was compared to that supplied by slum landlords.

Last month, police chiefs raised concerns more than 700 officers may have to be cut due to budget constraints. Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has asked ministers for £70 million of funding to prevent job losses.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Serving all the communities of Scotland and ensuring a proportionate policing presence is of the highest priority. “Officers being recalled to duty is an operational contingency in response to a serious incident, or in circumstances where a larger than normal police response may be required. 

“Officers would not be expected to attend an incident, if they had been recalled to duty, without equipping themselves with the appropriate protective kit beforehand.”

A Government spokesman said: “While the deployment of officers is a matter for the Chief Constable, officer numbers across Scotland are significantly higher than in 2007, when they have fallen by around 19,000 in England and Wales.

“Scottish public services have been constrained by a decade of UK austerity, but in Scotland we are protecting the police revenue budget in real terms – delivering an additional £100m throughout this Parliament, with annual funding now more than £1.2 billion.

“Police Scotland officers has a strong 6.5 per cent pay deal in place until March 2021 – described by the SPF as the greatest uplift to pay for over 20 years - which gives them and their families certainty, and is significantly higher than the 2.5% given to English and Welsh officers in 2019-20.”