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The hijab has become an optional part of the Police Scotland uniform as the force works to encourage Muslim women to join the service. Previously, officers could wear the religious headscarf with approval but it is now formally part of the force uniform. Police Scotland said it is working to make the force "representative of the communities we serve." The formal announcement was welcomed by the Scottish Police Muslim Association (SPMA), an organisation set up in 2010 to build closer ties with Muslim communities. Chief Constable Phil Gormley said: "I am delighted to make this announcement and welcome the support from both the Muslim community, and the wider community, as well as police officers and staff. "Like many other employers, especially in the public sector, we are working towards ensuring our service is representative of the communities we serve. "I hope that this addition to our uniform options will contribute to making our staff mix more diverse and adds to the life skills, experiences and personal qualities that our officers and staff bring to policing the communities of Scotland." A report to the Scottish Police Authority earlier this year showed there were 4,809 applications to join Police Scotland in 2015/16, of which 127 (2.6%) were from ethnic backgrounds. It read: "Based on these figures, it is clear to see that challenge Police Scotland faces. If the black and minority ethnic groups (BME) national average of 4% is to be met within the organisation, an additional 650 BME recruits are required across all areas of the business. "Considering current application trends, this would appear to be unachievable." The Metropolitan Police in London approved the hijab as part of its uniform more than a decade ago. SPMA chair Fahad Bashir said: "This is a positive step in the right direction, and I am delighted that Police Scotland is taking productive steps in order to ensure that our organisation is seen to be inclusive and represents the diverse communities that we serve across Scotland. "No doubt this will encourage more women from Muslim and minority ethnic backgrounds to join Police Scotland."