A Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives found the constabulary owns hundreds of patrol cars with capacity for five people – but only has them insured to carry three.
The Tories said the national force has 628 vehicles which, because of weight regulations, can never be full. They said it was understood the vehicles were required to have upgraded suspension in order to carry five people, together with the heavy equipment and uniform police officers wear.
But Police Scotland said all of its vehicles were self-insured and that it was in the interests of health and safety that “a small number” of vehicles were advised not to be driven at high speeds with full occupancy.
Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr claimed the revelations were another example of a police force being expected to operate by the Scottish Government with insufficient funding.
“Hardly a day goes by where we don’t see another damaging impact of Police Scotland being one of the worst-funded forces in the UK,” he said.
But Assistant Chief Constable Kenny MacDonald responded that it was “inaccurate” to state that Police Scotland had vehicles which were only insured to carry three people.
He added: “Police Scotland self-insures its fleet and following a review, we issued an advisory note for a small number of our vehicles recommending that, in some cases, it was inadvisable for more than three people to travel while driving at higher speeds.
“This is in the interest of safety due to the weight of the police equipment, which must be carried as standard, when considering the overall weight capacity of the vehicle.
“This has a minimal operational impact and for events or incidents where greater numbers of officers are required to travel together, larger police vehicles with an increased weight capacity are utilised.”
He added: “The safety of all officers, and of any individuals within our custody, is of paramount importance. We are currently reviewing our fleet strategy to ensure it meets the needs of a modern police service.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland has made clear that it is inaccurate to suggest that they have vehicles which are only insured to carry three people.”