Michael Matheson Criticised Over 'Letting Down' Police Officers

9 October 2017, 12:41 | Updated: 9 October 2017, 12:57

Police Scotland

The Justice Secretary has been accused of letting down police officers by the mother of a woman who quit the single force from exhaustion.

Michael Matheson was confronted on the pressures facing Police Scotland staff during a fringe event hosted by the Scottish Police Federation at the SNP conference in Glasgow.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had been "incredibly proud" to attend her daughter's passing out at Tulliallan three and a half-years-ago.

She said: "This was her dream to serve Scotland as a police officer. Unfortunately it hasn't worked out well. She is now physically and emotionally exhausted.

"She resigned about six weeks ago because there was no prospect of improvement in the service coming any time soon Mr Matheson."

She said her daughter had coped with "relentless" 10-hour shifts, often without a meal or toilet break, had "no quality of life" due to changing shift patterns and dealt with "never-ending paperwork" as well as "defunct" IT systems and response vehicles with 130,000 plus miles on the clock and no satellite navigation.

"She didn't think the job would be a walk in the park, she was well aware of what she was taking on and I feel she's been very let down. She's not complaining but I am angry because, Mr Matheson, I'm a member of the SNP.

"This isn't a Tory government in Scotland, this isn't a Labour government in Scotland, this is my party in Scotland and you are letting down your officers.

"What Mr Matheson would you say to my daughter who must be feeling let down, what would you say to her and to the other officers..that are on the edge of nervous breakdowns? I'm not exaggerating."

Earlier panel member Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said he was concerned Police Scotland was "becoming a response only service and in many cases an apologetic response only service".

He said: "If you look at our police service just now, you will find large percentage of officers that are downtrodden, they are tired, they are exhausted, they are fatigued, they feel unloved and it is difficult to genuinely say that that's the kind of police service that the country needs but it's also not the kind of police service that they themselves need to be working in."

Responding to the concerns Mr Matheson said: "With the creation of a single force, one of the areas which has not been adequately addressed within the service is around the whole issue of the wellbeing of our police officers and their needs and to recognise that the service needs to address these issues that they have as a matter of concern.

"I'm conscious that the service has put a lot of work into that in recent times in order to try and address these issues but there is clearly significantly more that the service needs to take forward in order to address these matters."

He said the government had protected the police budget "in order to make sure that we can try to provide as much resource as we can particularly during a period of austerity".

He added: "We're protecting the budget to allow us to make further investment into the service.

"I recognise though that does not resolve all of the financial pressures and challenges that exist within the service but as a government we are trying our best in order to try and meet that demand where we can financially."