Scots police get guide on PC language


By Cara Sulieman

A SCOTS police force has been ordered to swot up on an ultra PC guide about how best to avoid offending people.

Lothian and Borders Police have issued an ‘Appropriate Language Guide’ to staff warning them of terms to avoid.

Included are instructions not to refer to OAPs as old “biddies” or to insult gays by suggesting they “bat for the other side”.

It also warns that officers shouldn’t refer to people as “Mongol”, “coloured” or “spastic”, and sets out guidelines for fostering good relationships between men and women in the workplace.

The guide, which has gone to all 3000 officers and 1300 civilian staff, adds: “You should be aware that some people may not enjoy being referred to as ‘one of the boys’ or ‘one of the girls’.

“In a similar way, you need to be aware that terms such as ‘dear’, ‘pet’, or ‘love’ can be devaluing and patronising, particularly when used by older staff towards younger staff.

“They are best avoided.”

Despite being voted the best employers in Scotland for gay, lesbian and transgender people in 2008, the force has handed out the guide to tell their staff what to say and not say in the course of duty.


But the booklet – which focuses on offensive terms linked to age, gender, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation – has been branded “condescending” by some politicians.

The guide was produced to go along with the diversity training course which all officers and civilian staff attend.

Police chiefs say the training helps officers “respond appropriately when dealing with the diverse community we serve”.

The guide also warns that terms such as “Afro-Caribbean” and “African-Caribbean” – although used in force’s official documents – “can prove offensive to those of African or Caribbean ethnicity who have been born in Britain”.

“Bats for the other side”

And it points out that sexual orientation is an area where “phrases and euphemisms abound” saying it is best to use language that is “direct, factual and, therefore, professional”.

It continues that “‘a woman with lesbian tendencies’ and ‘he/she bats for the other side’ should be avoided”.

But Bill Aitken MSP, Conservative Justice spokesman, said the “condescending language does nobody any favours”.

He said: “There are complaints about police budgets, but apparently Lothian and Borders Police seem to have the time and the money to waste on politically correct and esoteric matters.

“They should cut this nonsense out and have a few more officers patrolling the streets of Edinburgh.”


And some charities are of the opinion that the modern police officer shouldn’t be using these phrases in the first place.

A spokeswoman for Age Scotland said: “We would hope that police officers don’t need to be told that terms such as ‘fool’ or ‘biddy’ are offensive, whether age is an issue or not.”

But it has been welcomed by Stonewall Scotland, the charity that awarded Lothian and Borders Police the accolade of the best employer in Scotland for members of the gay community in 2008.

Carl Watt, the charity’s director, said: “Lothian and Borders Police have a track record of working to build trust with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and making great efforts to ensure everybody is treated equally and fairly.”

The Force spokesman was unable to say how much the guide cost, but added: “The Appropriate Language Guide was produced by the force to complement the diversity training course that all staff attend.”


  1. What your piece fails to point out is that the guide was published in 2004. It wasn’t news then and isn’t news now.

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