A TAXPAYER-footed bill to buy back lieu days from police officers in the Lothians has more than trebled in a year, figures obtained by the Evening News reveal.
The cost of paying officers for days they failed to take off in an allotted time rose from just under £47,000 in 2017-18 to £166,584 last year.
Union officials blamed a “relentless” workload for preventing officers from taking time off while police chiefs work-life balance is important.
Andrew Malcolm of the Scottish Police Federation said: “Officers are being overwhelmed by the demand, we don’t have enough people to meet it all.”
“Officers want to be able to take time off, these figures show how difficult it is to get.
“Shifts and teams have never been under so much pressure through daily demand, it’s relentless.”
Mr Malcolm said the demand on officers is taking its toll and more investment is needed to resolve issues in the force.
“They are constantly playing catch up, it just adds to the stress of an already extremely stressful job.
“That’s why mental health issues are increasing, the service is underfunded and due to lack of IT and other infrastructure officers are trying to bridge the gap, meet demand, provide a professional service and update all the systems.
“We are trying to change and meet 2019 issues but the lack of capital investment is just making it worse.”
Mr Malcolm said further investment was needed to upgrade creaking infrastructure to take some of the pressure off officers.
He added: “Our vehicles are ageing, they are constantly being repaired and off the road which adds to stress for officers and creates additional work, we need to be removing work not people.
“People outwith the service need to realise the goodwill and efforts officers put in on a daily basis, making sacrifices that impact on them and their families.
“They start early and finish late just to get things done, we need to be policing to demand not budget, currently we are overstretched and underfunded.”
Assistant Chief Constable Kenny MacDonald said officers accrue days off in lieu to rest-up whenever they work overtime.
"However, as an emergency service, it is vital that we ensure we have sufficient resource available at all times and if our personnel have accrued significant hours of TOIL, which is then not taken within a defined period of time, the force buys this back and financial compensation is paid into the individuals salary, in line with regulations,” he added.
"Monthly reports are also submitted that show outstanding TOIL to ensure divisional managers are aware of the situation in their area. This allows officers to take the necessary rest they require."