Scotland’s police force is facing a staffing crisis with up to 1800 officers considering leaving for bumper new pension deals.
The situation has become so concerning that Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has taken the unprecedented step of writing to staff to ask them to make sure any change is the right move for them.
New rules which came into force last week mean officers can now retire after 25 years of service instead of 30 without being
financially penalised. In an attractive golden handshake, they can also take more of their pension as a tax-free lump sum.
That can mean payouts of anything between £100,000 and £300,000 for all ranks up to Chief Superintendent. And, in another boost, the same officers will be able to retire on half their salary.
The Scottish Police Federation, which represents cops up to the rank of chief inspector, said many of their members were already desperate to leave because of low morale and lack of job satisfaction.
Deputy general secretary David Kennedy said: “The reality is that they don’t want to be in the job any more. They are sick of it. If the incentives were there, people would stay – but they are not.”
Kennedy said early retirements will impact on a force already suffering from reduced numbers due to Covid and cutbacks.
He called for an improved pay offer to encourage more officers to stay on and delay their retirement.
He added: “A lot of police officers do not feel valued. Some just want to retire, others want to start a new career while they can. There must be concern at the numbers leaving and how the service will cope.”
The Sunday Mail has learned that 1800 officers – just under 10 per cent of the force – have inquired about taking retirement under the new rules and asked what their lump sum and salary would be. Of that total, 400 officers have decided to leave.
There is a six-week waiting list for officers to get their retirement figures because of the demand from those looking to quit.
The Sunday Mail has also learned that in one area covering Argyll, a chief inspector and several sergeants in the same team have quit to take advantage of the new pension rules.
In his letter to staff, Livingstone said: “I would urge you to take time to ensure you have the correct information available and seek
independent financial advice when making any decision regarding your pension and retirement plans.”
The new pension rules are open to any police officer who has served 25 years and is over 50.
They are a result of changes by the Scottish and UK governments following a successful challenge in the Court of Appeal in England to changes in public service pensions.
Dubbed the McCloud remedy, the changes were found to discriminate on grounds of age. The case restored the rights of officers to bigger lump sums when taking early retirement.
Craig Suttie, general secretary of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, which represents 170 officers at senior management level, welcomed the new pension measures.
He denied the force was in crisis and was confident it could cope with the numbers leaving.
Suttie added: “We are encouraging members to take financial advice before they come to a decision.”
The flood of early retirements follows revelations last month that 140 police stations have closed in the last 10 years.
Police Scotland said: “The implications of the McCloud remedy and other pensions issues are being assessed in full. We keep retirement rates under close review and are well able to flex resources and manage recruitment to maintain effective policing for the public we serve.”
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