Police officer numbers in Scotland have reached a record high after more than 300 were hired in the last year, according to new figures released yesterday.
The increase brings the total number of officers to 17,409, which is 1,175 more than there were in March 2007.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the number of officers on the beat is at a “record high” and the SNP has exceeded its election manifesto promise to deliver 1,000 extra staff.
The figures showed there are currently 1,550 officers in Grampian on account of 37 extra staff being hired in the last year which means numbers are up from 1,410 in March 2007.
Tayside Police currently has 1,210 officers, up from 1,167 three years ago and Northern Constabulary has 798, up from 707.
The forces have hired an additional 37 and 26 officers within the last year respectively.
Mr MacAskill said: “I wish to congratulate chief constables for redeploying officers and delivering more police on our streets.”
Opposition MSPs said the SNP must maintain officer numbers in the face of looming budget cuts and not preside over a decline after the Holyrood election next year.
Labour are concerned that any reduction in force support staff will result in officers being taken off the beat.
Last month Grampian Chief Constable Colin McKerracher claimed civil servants were trying to “call the shots" on police funding.
He said they had tried to persuade chief constables not to cut police numbers until this autumn when a decrease could be blamed on UK Government spending cuts.
Mr McKerracher said he was told money would be withheld if forces did not meet an SNP government target to maintain increased levels of officers.
Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said his party was calling for an independent forecast of police numbers. The north-east MSP said: “People don’t want police officers that are here today, gone tomorrow.
“Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly clear that the SNP election promise of 1,000 extra police officers is ringing hollow as officer numbers look set to be slashed in future.”
Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown said the SNP government “must come clean” on the long-term future of police numbers.
He added that it was not clear how much Mr MacAskill has tried to “gerrymander” the figures ahead of the Holyrood election next year or whether police budgets are able to keep numbers at the current level.
Tory justice spokesman John Lamont said it was “essential” that existing police numbers are maintained.
Mr MacAskill said the government had provided funding for an extra 801 police officers which will continue in 2010-11 with money to recruit an additional 201 officers this year. He added that funding for police authorities increased by 3.1% in 2010-11.