SCOTLAND is facing a "sharp crisis in mental health staffing", the Lib Dems have claimed, as new figures obtained by the party revealed more than a quarter of senior posts have not been permanently filled.

Freedom of information requests to health boards showed that of 674 full-time equivalent (FTE) consultant psychiatrist posts, 103 were vacant.

Meanwhile 82.5 FTE roles were being filled by locum members of staff - with Lib Dems claiming this meant 27 per cent of positions did not have a permanent staff member in place.

According to the party's research, more than half (53 per cent) of consultant psychiatrist positions in NHS Highland were either vacant or filled by locums.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems said NHS Shetland did not have any consultant psychiatrists, with the role filled by bank staff, while NHS Orkney reported it has only 0.5 (WTE) consultant psychiatrists in place.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "These figures show that a significant number of the most senior mental health roles in Scotland's health service are either lying empty or being filled on a temporary basis.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats have championed the cause of our national mental health for many years, but these figures show that there is still serious work to be done.

"There is a sharp crisis in mental health staffing across Scotland. Thousands of children and adults are waiting more than a year for treatment. Staff are under immense pressure and patients are suffering.

"The Scottish Government has compounded the crisis by stripping £38 million in funding for mental health this year."

Mental wellbeing minister Kevin Stewart said: "Under this government the mental health workforce has expanded significantly, with staffing numbers at a record high."

The number of psychology staff in the NHS has risen to an all-time high of 1,478 whole-time equivalent (WTE), Scottish Government figures showed.

Mr Stewart added that staffing in psychology and CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) had "more than doubled since 2007" as he stressed the government "continue to create posts in this area".