NICOLA Sturgeon has been told that a lack of mental health professionals available in Police Scotland is “pitiful” amid fears two fifths of those in custody have experienced poor mental health.

Liberal Democrat leader Wilie Rennie has claimed that only 12 mental health professionals have been allocated to Police Scotland.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said she accepts officers will be under additional pressure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, adding a range of support is available for them.

Mr Rennie said Police Scotland was promised a share of the 800 mental health staff pledged in the Scottish Government’s 2017 mental health strategy.

He said: “Three years on, only 12 of those mental health professionals have been allocated to the police. That is truly pitiful.

“Why is the Government not supporting our police with the enormous mental health challenges they face?”

Mr Rennie pointed to a report to be considered by the Scottish Police Authority next week which reveals 40 per cent of those in police custody have experienced poor mental health, while the average time it took for police to deal with a mental health incident was seven hours and 20 minutes.

He added: “Now we find that police officers don’t even get the support they need to help other people.”

The First Minister said the Scottish Government “support our police service in a number of ways”.

She added: “We have protected numbers of police officers, we have increased funding through the most recent budgets for the police service and of course Police Scotland works in a range of different ways to support the mental health of police officers.”

Ms Sturgeon stressed that the pandemic has “raised significantly the mental health pressures these public servants are working under”.

Other initiatives include mental health and suicide intervention training for all officers and a tailored wellbeing programme for all emergency workers, Ms Sturgeon said.

The First Minister added: “We will continue to have dialogue with the chief constable to ensure that we are supporting them in whatever ways we possibly can.”