Police officers 'buying own hand sanitiser and bin bags due to budget cuts'
Police officers in Scotland have been forced to buy their own hand sanitiser and bin bags due to budget cuts, it has been claimed.
Officers dealing with hundreds of people every day - some of whom may be carrying infectious diseases - are only provided with the occasional "bar of slimy soap", correspondence published by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) reveals.
Bins are overflowing due to a cost-saving restriction on bin bags, the email said.
Calum Steele, SPF general secretary, published excerpts on Twitter.
The email states: "No handwash provided in toilets, it costs too much to pay for a company to come in and refill handwash dispensers, so the best we get is a bar of slimy soap now and again.
"We buy our own handwash. And hand sanitiser, you'd think that would be a necessity in every police office, but it's not even a consideration."
The email added: "Cleaners being told not to empty the bins more than once a day, to save on bin bags!
"Cost savings expected to be a box of bags per quarter, however bins at (redacted) now overflowing by the time the early shift have finished and the late shift not even started."
Mr Steele told the Press Association: "Police officers have tremendous interaction with the public on a day-to-day basis.
"We deal with dozens, if not hundreds, of people every single day.
"Setting aside the issues of basic hand hygiene, which is essential for prevention of spreading germs and disease, the simple reality is some of the people that we deal with are not the most hygienic.
"They have the potential to be carrying contaminating illnesses and germs.
"It is ridiculous that the police service, as a consequence of austerity, is now in the position where it expects police officers to provide their own hand hygiene facilities."
The emails are the latest warning about the impact of police budget restrictions.
Last month, the Scottish Police Authority said it did not recognise Mr Steele's claim that Police Scotland was "sending officers to charity shops to source equipment".
Last week, Audit Scotland warned that "public-sector salary scales" were contributing to understaffing at the police ICT department, which had been struggling to fill 50 vacancies.
Commenting on the ICT deficiencies, Mr Steele said: "If the government, and indeed the Scottish Police Authority, wants a fighting-fit police service to deal with the threats and challenges of 21st century crime fighting then it has got to be able to invest to make that happen.
"We have the ridiculous situation where, because of the trickle of money available for capital expenditure, the police service seems to have little alternative but to pursue yesterday's technology for implementing tomorrow."
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "The service is facing financial challenges and we will continue to engage fully with the staff associations and unions to consider options for a sustainable policing model, which includes how we improve our ICT infrastructure."
An SPA spokeswoman said: "The SPA is working closely with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to address budget challenges in the current financial year."
She confirmed the SPA's audit and risk committee was satisfied Police Scotland is working to improve the ICT department.
Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: "Police bosses rejected claims that rank-and-file officers had to purchase their own kit.
"Now it seems that the scale of the problem was understated.
"Police officers encounter all sorts of messy situations so you would have thought basics such as hand wash and sanitiser would always be available.
"We cannot expect officers to do their best work and keep us safe unless they get the support they need. At its most basic level, that means ensuring that they are able to keep clean and healthy."
Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said: "Our police officers put their personal safety on the line every single day but it is clear that under the SNP they are not getting the support and the resources they need.
"The public must have confidence in the government and Police Scotland to keep our streets and communities safe, but examples such as this show that our police force is under real pressure."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Police staff play an important role in keeping Scotland safe. We are protecting the police revenue budget in real terms for the entirety of this parliament - delivering an additional £100 million of investment and will ensure the service has the right mix and numbers of staff for the future.
"As set out in the 2016-17 Budget, we are retaining police officer numbers at 1,000 higher than in 2007 while working with the SPA to consider the implications of changing demands on Scottish policing."