POLICE Scotland has launched a voluntary redundancy process for staff in a bid to save funds.

Staff seeking either voluntary redundancy or voluntary early retirement will be able to apply from January 8 until February 9.

The move was approved at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Board last week, and will be open to staff with a minimum of two years continuous service.

Some exemptions were made “to ensure the continued operational effectiveness”, and staff were told that not all applications would be accepted.

Unison has objected to the plans, warning similar actions a decade ago forced police to fill the roles and describing it as “short-sighted”, warning it will “leave gaps in frontline policing”.

Exemptions included staff working in call centres, control rooms and custody suites, described by Unison as “critical roles”, and staff in the Scottish Police Authority cannot apply.

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Formal statutory consultation with trade unions is under way and senior leaders have been briefed.

The force has warned that without an additional £128 million, officer numbers could drop by almost 1500 and it may move to a “reduced attendance model” nationwide.

Police and staff were given a 7% pay award this year, and Chief Constable Jo Farrell told a Scottish Police Authority (SPA) board meeting last week that voluntary redundancies would be sought.

An internal memo said: “In the coming weeks and prior to Christmas we will launch a dedicated VR/VER intranet mini-site which will provide detail in relation to the scheme terms, eligibility, application process and an initial suite of FAQs.

“Similarly, a toolkit will be shared with those who line-manage police staff so that they can effectively support staff in their teams who are interested.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police Scotland has been very clear about the pressures on policing because of this year’s budget settlement.

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“These pressures have led to a reduction in police officer numbers to around 16,600 and we are building a service model which reflects that level.

“At the same time, we are reducing police staff numbers proportionately to the reduction in officer numbers and returning overtime costs to normal levels.

“VR/VER is one of the ways the service aims to reduce police staff costs.

“Our commitment to no compulsory redundancies remains in place.”

Unison Scotland regional organiser Deborah Clarke said: “Police Scotland is repeating the same mistake as many other public sector organisations by axing staff to fix a cash crisis.

“But this is essential work and using more highly paid officers to do the same tasks is short-sighted and will leave gaps in frontline policing.

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“Unison has tried to work with the force to suggest other ways to make savings, but that advice has been ignored.”

Unison Scotland police branch secretary David Malcolm said: “Senior leaders of the force have privately admitted they know this sort of scheme doesn’t achieve the results that are needed.

“Police staff are already under significant pressure. They’re picking up the slack for areas of the organisation that are already under-resourced.

“There’s only so much they can reasonably be expected to do before they and the system break.”