Concerns have been raised over a drop in the number of police officers covering the north and the north-east.
Official data yesterday showed that the number of officers in Grampian hit 3,337 in the last quarter – the lowest level in almost two years, and down 19 on the previous three months.
In the Highlands and islands, the strength of the force dropped by 26 officers since the last quarter, to its lowest level for a year, at 2,821.
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However, the decline was more dramatic across Scotland as a whole, with the number of officers falling to the lowest level in almost a decade.
Nationwide, there were 17,147 full-time equivalent officers in the country at the end of September, down 25 on the last quarter and a decrease of 103 from September 2017.
The last time the number of officers was lower was in the first three months of 2009, when the total was 17,048.
Officer numbers increased after the SNP came into power in 2007, with the party committing to putting 1,000 extra police on the streets, reaching the figure by 2009.
The commitment has not applied since 2016 but the Scottish Government said officer numbers “remain significantly” above the level in 2007.
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, justice spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “Police officer numbers are at their lowest in almost a decade. However, these statistics only tell half the story.
“They fail to take into account the fact that around 2,000 skilled civilian staff were lost in the SNP’s centralisation and officers had to cover for them.”
Last year, the police announced they would slow recruitment between 2018 and 2020 amid a funding gap.
Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “Police Scotland is committed to the continued development of a flexible and agile workforce that’s capable of responding to the evolving criminal threats to our communities.
“Having a core number of police officers will remain at the heart of policing in Scotland to ensure that we can protect people with different needs in every part of the country.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Police officer numbers in Scotland remain significantly above the level in 2007, with an increase of 913 since March 2007 – this contrasts with a reduction of almost 20,000 officers in England and Wales.
“Scotland’s single police service means communities across the country now benefit from specialist national and regional expertise.”