THE Scottish Government has hit back at criticism after a report found 35% of police officers have gone to work despite suffering from mental ill health.

Tabling a motion on the issue at Holyrood, LibDem leader Willie Rennie detailed a recent study of Police Scotland officers which outlined mental health problems.

He said the findings, which have yet to be published but were revealed by the LibDem leader this week, should “shake the Government to the core”.

The study, commissioned by Police Scotland and carried out by Canadian researchers, found 35% of officers reported going to work while mentally unwell, 57% said they had become stressed by a lack of resources and just 3% said they felt the force cared about their well-being.

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But Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Willie Rennie mentioned the research that was commissioned by Police Scotland and I think that’s an indication of an employer that’s taking the mental health of its staff seriously. That’s good practice, they’re wanting to understand what needs to be done. We’re looking forward to analysing that research when it is published.”

He also said the Scottish Government has a 10-year mental health strategy aimed at drawing parity between mental and physical health.

Rennie had said police officers are “struggling with their mental health, being let down by those at the top and by those in this government”.

The study also found 21% of officers reported suffering from low mood, while a further 10% said they had turned to alcohol or prescription drugs to cope.

Rennie said: “That’s the officers that are meant to be keeping us safe in our communities, turning up to work with a mental illness. Just let that sink in for a minute. And the evidence is there that they don’t get enough support.”

FitzPatrick pointed out that the Scottish Government is committing £180,000 to extend the Lifelines Scotland programme. “Extending the programme will support the resilience and well-being of first responder staff in the blue light services to ensure that they feel supported, informed and valued,” he said.