An independent think tank has claimed Police Scotland is solving fewer crimes, despite hiring more officers.
Reform Scotland said the number of crimes being cleared up has fallen from 198,985 in 2006-2007, to 139,306 in 2013-2014.
Over a similar time period, the number of police officers in Scotland has risen from 16,234 to 17,295.
The Scottish government said overall crime rates are falling and the percentage clear-up rate has improved.
Reform Scotland calculated that the average police officer is now clearing up about eight crimes per year, down from 12 per year before the expansion of officer numbers.
Unison, the union which represents many civilian employees of the police service, has claimed that the additional officers are being used to carry out duties which were previously carried out by civilians.
Reform Scotland Research Director Alison Payne said: “The figures speak for themselves. The number of police officers has increased yet fewer crimes are being solved.
“It has been suggested that police officers have to carry out duties previously carried out by civilian staff, which would certainly help explain this situation. After all, it is not just the number of police officers that is important, but how they are deployed.
“As a result we would urge the Scottish Government to review the 1,000 extra officers pledge to ensure that the policy is delivering value for taxpayers’ money. Staff deployment should be an operational, as opposed to a political, decision.”
The Reform Scotland report has also recommended changes which would increase “localism” in the delivery of policing.
It suggested a divisional commander and divisional structure which matched the local authority map of Scotland, more of the police budget coming from councils, and guaranteed local authority representation on the Scottish Police Authority.
Ms Payne added: “Reform Scotland disagreed with the formation of a single police force, and we remain opposed on the grounds that the single force does not offer the necessary flexibility to deal with regional and local differences.
“While we accept that further police reorganisation will not happen in the short-term, we do believe that the single police force does not need to be such a centralised one and have set out policies which could give a greater voice to local communities.”
Falling crime rates
A response from the Scottish government stressed the improvement in the percentage clear-up rate for crimes in Scotland.
The spokesperson said: “The claims this report makes are wrong. The clear up rate for all recorded crimes increased by 1% to 52% in 2013-14, the highest recorded since 1976, the first year for which comparable records are available.
“Police officers and staff are doing an excellent job out in our communities keeping people safe from harm and crime in Scotland is currently at a 40 year low. This report fails to recognise the important role of policing, and the 1000 extra officers, in preventing crime, reducing threats and, crucially, providing public reassurance to ensure people feel safer in their communities.
“It also fails to recognise that with a 40 year low in recorded crime reduced crime, supported by increased numbers of officers means, of course, the clear-up rate per officer are going to be lower.”
The government also denied any reduction in local accountability.
Its spokesperson added: “Policing in Scotland is more local and accountable than ever before, with unprecedented scrutiny since the move to a single service.
“Local accountability remains fundamental to policing in Scotland which is why all of Scotland’s 353 council wards has a local policing plan developed and shaped in consultation with the local community.” Readmore..