RANK and file officers have reacted angrily to Sir Iain Livingstone’s admission that Police Scotland is “institutionally racist.”

The Scottish Police Federation said the comment from the outgoing Chief Constable would make the job “more difficult” and do damage to the force’s relationship with the communities it serves.

One former officer said the comments would "set policing and police relations in Scotland back a decade.”

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On Thursday morning, in his final appearance in front of the Scottish Police Authority’s board, Sir Iain said he had “great confidence in the character and values” of his officers and staff.

"However, it is right for me, the right thing for me to do as Chief Constable, to clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination exist. 

“Police Scotland is institutionally racist and discriminatory. 

“Publicly acknowledging these institutional issues exist is essential to our absolute commitment to championing equality and becoming an anti-racist Service. It is also critical to our determination to lead wider change in society.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, David Threadgold, the chairman of the Scottish Police Federation said the chief had failed to clearly get his message across.

“The vast majority of the police officers who heard the words from the Chief Constable yesterday, and by extension members of the public, their perception is that the Chief Constable was identifying and labelling them as institutionally racist. That is simply not the case.

“And the distinction, the nuance the Chief Constable is trying to make between organisational issues and individual collective responsibility was missed in the delivery.”

He added: “That is a really important distinction to make because I believe that the role of police officers now in the communities will have been made more difficult by the comments of the Chief Constable. The reason for that is that they will hear him speaking and they will also not make that distinction.

“So when they are patrolling in the streets that are in Scotland this weekend, members of the public will see them, they will make the link to the fact that the Chief Constable has said that we as an organisation are institutionally racist, and that will make our job more difficult.”

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Calum Steele, the former general secretary of the SPF, described the comments as a “kick in the solar plexus to police officers up and down the length of Scotland.”

He said the comments would “set policing and police relations in Scotland back a decade.”

Speaking to the BBC, Sir Iain said he could understand why his statement was difficult to hear.

He added: “It’s difficult to say.

“As I said, I’m a police officer myself for almost 31 years and my loyalty to my colleagues and officers and staff who I’ve worked with for many, many years, people who I know, I know their qualities, I know their values, and it’s difficult to hear.

“But you need to be clear on what I’m actually saying. I am not condemning officers and staff, I’m actually, if anything, looking at the organisation for which I’m responsible and it’s actually taken me time to have that acceptance and that realisation for the reasons I’ve said.”

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Sir Iain stressed he is not “condemning colleagues” or saying that “no progress has been made since the 90s”.

“Could I have done this earlier? Could I have myself got to this position of accepting and recognising institutional discrimination?

“Well perhaps, perhaps I could have, and I accept that.

“But what I do say is that I’ve always been committed to driving equality, diversity and inclusion – we’ve got far greater representation now in policing than we’ve ever had.

“Lots more to do, but I think I leave the organisation in a far better place than I found it.”

Sir Iain insisted his statement does not represent a failure of his leadership, adding: “I will leave office later in August, after having been chief constable for almost six years, I think we’ve got Police Scotland into a far more stable place.”

He said that of more than 570 murders since the creation of Police Scotland 10 years ago, just one remains undetected, describing the record of the service as “massively impressive.”