LESS than five per cent of police officers and staff have been tested for Covid-19, the Scottish Government has confirmed. 

Fewer than 1,000 of Police Scotland’s workforce has undergone testing during the pandemic, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has told MSPs. 

Mr Yousaf was responding to a question in Holyrood by Conservative justice spokesperson Liam Kerr. 

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He said: “The information received from Police Scotland has confirmed that as of 8 June, 914 police officers and staff have been tested for Covid-19. 

“The testing of police officers and staff is important, it will continue for as long as is necessary. Our police officers are on the front line each day and I would want to thank them on my behalf for the work they are doing in keeping us safe. 

“There is no barrier to accessing testing for police officers or staff.” 

Mr Kerr has pointed to concerns raised by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) that testing was not taking place. 

He said: “There are over 17,000 officers and 5,000 staff in Scotland. The data that the Cabinet Secretary refers to suggests there are fewer than 300 tests arranged for the whole of May.  

“The SPF has warned that asymptomatic testing was not being offered and it seems that they were right. 

“The SPF has also asked why Crown Office guidance allows those arrested for coughing or spitting at officers to be released from custody before trial.” 

But Mr Yousaf told MSPs that processes for custody was out of the Scottish Government’s hands.  

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He said: “Even if officers are asymptomatic but they have been involved in a suspected Covid-positive incident, then they can get testing – let there be no equivocation on that point. 

“I’ve always listened carefully to what the Police Federation have to say. Matters for who is in custody, who is retained on demand, are not decisions that are made by ministers, they are independent of ministers.  

“What I will also say is if someone has been accused of and has a pattern of behaviour of assaulting police officers, I’m not entirely convinced keeping them in a custody cell where they are surrounded by other police officers is necessarily the best course of action.”  

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser pressed the Justice Secretary over what reasons prisoners “are not routinely tested” for Covid-19. 

Mr Yousaf said: “Operational measures taken by prison and health staff in Scotland have been effective in reducing the spread of Covid-19 right across the prison estate.  

“As of the week ending 5 June, there was no confirmed positive cases of Covid-19  in Scottish prisons and just seven individuals self-isolating across five establishments. This is a significant achievement by SPS and NHS staff. 

“Under the recent coronavirus early release scheme, if a healthcare professional considered that a prisoner had or is likely to have coronavirus, that individual would not have been authorised for immediate, early release. In practice, there were no cases where this was necessary.” 

Mr Fraser asked whether when prisoners are released, could authorities “test prisoners at the opportunity where they are leaving prison and going into the wider population simply as a precautionary measure”. 

But Mr Yousaf said it was not clear whether it would be legal to hold prisoners back from release if they are found to be positive for Covid-19. 

He said: “Every prisoner that is released is given adequate healthcare advice, bearing in mind, of course, if the prisoner was tested and they were due for liberation and they were found to be positive, it is not clear legally that they could be held back from being liberated.”