Police officers should refuse to work outside their agreed hours as part of demands for an 8.5% pay rise, the body presenting rank and file officers has said.

The Scottish Police Federation said the force was “stretched beyond the limit” and officers should not report for duty on their days off, as often happens at present.

As off-duty officers protested outside a meeting of their funding body, the Scottish Police Authority in Edinburgh, the SPF said the demand was “fair and justifiable” given recent pay hikes elsewhere in the public sector.

Amid fears that Police Scotland funding could be cut further, the SPF said the Scottish Government must give the police service “proper priority”.

SPF chair David Threadgold said his members were already “working under significant stresses”.

He said he knew of one officer who should have had 60 days off in the first 30 weeks of this year, but 24 of those days off were disrupted and he was instead required to work.

On some days, that left his family spending £150 a day on childcare. 

He said the officer was only promised another day off “at some time in the future”.

Mr Threadgold said: “There is no doubt that we are being asked to do more with less and resources are stretched beyond the limit.”

The police are not allowed by law to strike, and Mr Threadgold said he did not want the public to suffer if they worked to rule and did “not cut corners”.

However he confirmed officers were being urged by the SPF not to work when off duty, as “time off is needed to recuperate”, not to work when ill.

He said: “We do not have the right to take industrial action but we do have the power of persuasion. All we are asking for is fair treatment in pay.

“Officer shortages, changes to shifts and days off are occurring for both day-to-day policing and special events such as the Grangemouth oil protests or the UCI World Cycling Championships.

“Threats of further cuts are on the way and only the Scottish Government can put this right.

“Shortage of resources and unfair treatment in pay can only be resolved by the Scottish Government giving the police proper priority in spending.”

SPF general-secretary David Kennedy added: “Over the last two years teachers and the fire brigade have had 12.35% rises and nurses and doctors 14.5%. Last year we got 5% and so far this year, nothing.

“Some of these other workers have gone on strike or threatened to, but we cannot do that.

“We look to the Scottish Government to treat us fairly and not take advantage of our lack of industrial rights.”

Mr Kennedy said police pay was 16% down in real terms since 2006, with inflation eroding a 10% special payment given to officers despite them working “10% more than the average”.

He said: “We could have made a massive claim like some workers did but we asked for 8.5%, which would give us the average of what was paid to these other groups. We think this fair and justifiable.”

Scottish Tory MSP Russell Findlay said: “The fact police officers feel they have no option but to take this unprecedented action reflects their understandable anger at being undervalued and exploited by the SNP government.

“It’s ludicrous for the government to claim they can’t comment due to ongoing discussions when in fact there are no discussions. There hasn’t even been a response to the claim submitted by the SPF four months ago.

“Officer numbers in Scotland are at their lowest since 2008 and the former chief constable warned of the impact of SNP cuts on the effective policing of our communities. Ministers need to stop hiding and start taking some responsibility.”