AROUND a fifth of assaults on Fife police officers in the last year related to coronavirus.

Police Scotland have released figures showing that out of the 349 attacks which took place in the Kingdom, a total of 65 had a COVID-19-related context.

Across Scotland, there were 6,942 recorded assaults on officers and staff, an increase of 6.3 per cent year on year.

Of these, 1,087 reports were identified by searching cases for keywords relating to coronavirus such as ‘spit’, ‘cough’ and ‘COVID’.

Reported assaults are also up 18 per cent on the five-year average, continuing a long-term trend of increasing assaults against the police.

Commenting on the figures, Deputy Chief Constable, People and Professionalism, Fiona Taylor said: “Officers and staff stepped forward to help combat the spread of the virus, conducting in excess of 120,000 interactions with members of the public to explain rapidly-changing guidance, encourage everyone to do the right thing and enforce the law where required.

“I am grateful to the vast majority of people who responded with remarkable co-operation and support for their police service.

“Officers and staff work with dedication and a commitment to helping people and violence and abuse against them is utterly deplorable and unacceptable. It is not simply part of the job and will not be tolerated.”

Police Scotland has brought additional focus to tackling violence and abuse against officers and staff under the Your Safety Matters initiative, led by DCC Taylor.

The initiative, in which staff associations and unions are represented, contributed to the development of the Chief Constable’s Assault Pledge, backed by the Lord Advocate and the Cabinet Secretary of Justice.

The pledge was launched in August 2020 and promised to provide appropriate support to colleagues where violence occurs, as well as calling on wider society and the public to support policing.

Over the last year, Police Scotland has established an enhanced Operational Safety Training programme which increases the annual refresher course from one day to two days and introduces new techniques and de-escalation tactics.

New guidance for officers and staff has also been published to support better reporting of health and safety incidents and assaults.

DCC Taylor said tackling the "concerning trend" of increasing assaults on officers and staff was a priority for Police Scotland.

“It causes physical and psychological harm to dedicated public servants," she added. "There is also a cost to the public purse through days lost to ill-health or personal injury claims.

“We will continue to work to better understand how we prevent violence and abuse against officers and staff, what impact it has on our colleagues, and how we can better support them to do their job.”