Last year 349 police cars experienced technical difficulties while patrolling Scotland’s streets - an increase of 100 on the previous year.
Daniel Johnson, MSP, Scottish Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said issues with the Police Scotland fleet come amid concerns raised by the force that they are spending less than a third of what is required for proper maintenance because of lack of capital funding from the Scottish Government.
Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation said the condition of much of the police vehicle fleet was “nothing short of a disgrace.”
“In the past few weeks we have seen a police van catch fire and another needed a continual hand on the gear stick to ensure it didn’t jump out of gear whilst in motion, and both were incapable of keeping the rain out,’ Mr Steele said. “This is a matter that ought to embarrass both the Government and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, the UK road safety charity, said it was probably illegal and dangerous for police officers to be driving vehicles which were not road worthy.
Last month it emerged that Police Scotland had more than 250 cars over a decade old. A total of 870 cars - approximately 25 per cent of the fleet- have more than 100,000 miles on the clock, with 126 covering between 150,000 and 200,000 miles.
The average vehicle was four to five years old and had driven up to 50,000 miles.
Last February saw the largest number of breakdowns - 44 incidents, compared with 20 the previous year. This was followed by May with 43 and April with 36.
Mr Johnston said the figures, from a Freedom of Information request, proved frontline officers were driving inefficient vehicles instead of the modern fleet required for tackling crime.
“No wonder criminals fancy their chances in Sturgeon’s Scotland when the police are driving clapped out bangers,” Mr Johnson said.
“Police Scotland is getting nowhere near the level of funding it needs to maintain a modern fleet.
“You can’t keep communities safe on the cheap and in government Labour will give our police the resources they need to look for criminals, not the nearest mechanic.”
Mr Steele said: “The only thing surprising in these official figures is that they are so low.
“The condition of much of the police vehicle fleet is nothing short of a disgrace, breakdowns are commonplace and officers routinely highlight that more vehicles are off the road than on it.
“The derisory capital funding for the police service gives little hope things will improve anytime soon.
“We risk a farcical reality that those charged with keeping unsafe vehicles off our roads, will be increasingly asked to do so from vehicles which are barely road legal in themselves.”
Mr Greig said: “Police drivers should not be put in the position where they’re more worried about their vehicle breaking down than being in pursuit. In a tense situation officers should be concentrating on their work, not thinking about whether their car was going to hold up. It’s blatantly ridiculous.
“We would expect police vehicles to have more bumps and crashes but these officers are highly trained so would be able to handle difficult situations,
“With the defects Calum Steele is describing these vehicles could fail their MOT and may be illegal considering the condition they are in.”
Last month Andrea MacDonald, chair of the SPF, highlighted the deteriorating state of the Police Scotland fleet in her keynote speech at the federation’s conference.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While the allocation of resources is for the chief constable and SPA to determine, we are protecting the police resource budget in real terms in every year of the current Parliament, delivering a boost of £100 million by 2021.
“Total Scottish Government funding for the SPA in 2019-20 is increasing by £42.3m, bringing the annual policing budget to more than £1.2 billion.
“This includes a 52 per cent increase to the capital budget – providing £12m more – which will fund essential investment in IT infrastructure and support mobile working for officers, allowing them to access information remotely,.
“We continue to press the UK government for a refund of £125m paid by Police Scotland in VAT between 2013 and 2018.”