Police Scotland has denied suggestions officer numbers could fall as part of a ten-year strategy to guarantee the force’s long-term future.
A leaked document reportedly shows the proportion of officers could fall from 76 per cent to 60 per cent of the workforce as the number of civilians grows.
If the overall workforce of 22,500 is maintained, it would mean a drop in officer numbers of around 3,000 to just over 14,000.
The details are said to be part of the Policing 2026 strategy, which is due for publication later this month.
However, both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) described the figures as “speculative”.
Last month Police Scotland was labelled an “organisation in crisis” after Audit Scotland revealed details of a budget gap forecast to grow to £200 million by 2020-21.
Scottish Labour’s justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said Police Scotland’s problems had been caused by an SNP commitment to provide 1,000 additional officers compared with when it came to power in 2007. She said: “It is time that we had an honest debate on the future of policing in Scotland, on how we achieve a balanced workforce that is able to adapt with crime in the future.”
The SPA is currently working on the ten-year strategy which it says will deliver a “flexible and sustainable policing service”.
In an interview with The Scotsman last year, SPA chairman Andrew Flanagan said the force needed fewer uniformed officers and more graduates working in “darkened rooms” to tackle the growing threat of cyber-crime.
Yesterday, Mr Flanagan said the reported figures were “ill-informed and highly speculative”.
He said: “It strains credibility to believe that those closely involved with developing the strategy of policing in Scotland would contemplate such a course of action.”
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “The number quoted is both speculative and inaccurate and not one I recognise from the work undertaken to develop the ten-year strategy for policing.”
A Scottish Government spokesman added: “Ministers have been consistently clear in their support for Police Scotland to continue keeping communities safe while it adapts to the changing nature of crime.”