POLICE SCOTLAND has been left “scrabbling around trying to keep the wheels on the bus” after a spike in the number of officers leaving the force. 

According to the Scottish Police Federation’s 1919 magazine, “centuries of experience” will be lost with retirement rates 70 per cent higher than normal.

They’ve also warned about new pension arrangements which could see another significant surge in cops retiring early. 

About 1,800 officers have asked about the new terms which would allow an officer over 50 to retire after 25 years’ service without a financial penalty, on half-salary and with a tax-free lump sum of up to £300,000

It all comes as new figures revealed that police numbers in Scotland had fallen below 17,000 for the first time since 2008.

The quarterly strength statistics published on Tuesday revealed there were 16,805 full-time equivalent police officers in Scotland on 31 March 2022, down by 312 since 31 December 2021.

David Hamilton, chair of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents front line officers, told 1919 Magazine that it was “an entirely foreseeable situation and it's frustrating to now see Police Scotland scrabbling around trying to keep the wheels on the bus.”

He added: “For years we have warned that officers would be looking to leave the service as soon as they could and now that they have the vehicle to do so, they are.

“With our data showing retirals 70 per cent higher than normal, a lot of chickens are coming home to roost. Overworked, underpaid, under pressure and under-appreciated – the warning flags have been there but inexplicably the service chose to ignore them.

“We are now watching centuries of experience leave the organisation both to the detriment of colleagues left in the service and to the public at large.”

The change in terms comes after a successful court challenge to public sector pension changes introduced in 2015.

Known as the McCloud remedy after one of the litigants in the case, the ruling by the English Court of Appeal restoring pension benefits applies north of the Border too. 

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The implications of the McCloud remedy and other pensions issues are being assessed in full by Police Scotland.

“Retirement rates, in addition to extra pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, have created significant challenge and we are working hard to address these issues and maintain effective policing for the public we serve.

“As a single national service, we are identifying resources and managing recruitment to provide support and stability to frontline policing.”