A Highland MSP claims he has the evidence showing that frontline officers are being forced to fill in for civilian support staff.
Since the SNP came to power in 2007 an extra 10,000 officers have been taken on. But opposition politicians argue the recruitment drive has been undermined by cutbacks.
A freedom of information (FoI) request by Labour’s David Stewart shows that on April 1, 2012 – the year before the formation of Police Scotland – there were 10 civilians firearms field enquiry officers responsible for licensing in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.
A year later the number of staff had fallen to six and there are just two in post as of this month.
Mr Stewart said he has been advised there are now five police officers dealing with firearms issues working full-time in the area.
The FoI showed there are no civilian firearms field officers employed in the Highlands and Islands, which Mr Stewart said meant “all firearms field work is carried out by operational officers”.
The staff reductions are against a backdrop of the £64million in savings in its first year of the new national force with a total savings of £1.1billion expected by 20126.
Mr Stewart said: “If this is the current situation in the north and north-east it must be fair to assume it is the case across Scotland.
“So we now know that culling the police support staff to the extent that has been carried out has been a retrograde step and we are back to the position of policing in the late 70’s and early 80’s when police officers are engaged in roles that should be carried out by support staff.
“So the police have met the targets for financial cuts so far, but little cognisance has been taken, or seems to have been taken, of the impact.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said the force was introducing a national firearms licensing structure which will “ensure flexibility and offer the correct level of support across the country according to demand”.
“While the number of civilian firearms enquiry officers will reduce through voluntary redundancy, early retirement and redeployment opportunities, additional police officers are being trained to ensure that firearms licensing enquiries will continue to be carried out to the same standard across all our communities,” he said.