Cuts to the police force as it moves to a single service are worse than expected, if leaked figures are accurate, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.
Willie Rennie has called for the Justice Secretary to appear before Holyrood to explain the full extent of staff reductions as Scotland's eight forces merge into one. The single force's newly appointed chief constable, Stephen House, said last week that the merger could mean that up to 3,000 civilian jobs are lost.
The Sunday Herald newspaper has reported that a leaked document containing figures from the Police Reform Board shows that the force faces £300 million worth of cuts over the next three-and-a-half years, while 550 civilian staff would be lost immediately. The document also shows plans for further job cuts in future years, with cash set aside for redundancy and early retirement costs, the newspaper said.
Speaking on BBC Scotland's Sunday Politics programme, Chief Superintendent David O'Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said he does not recognise the figures.
Commenting on the Sunday Herald report, Mr Rennie said: "These cuts are even worse than we feared and was set out in the outline business case. The costly upheaval of centralising our local police forces will have a big impact on the effectiveness of the police.
"It's vital supportive staff that are to pay the price for the SNP's costly reorganisation. For years we have worked to create police forces with the right level of support staff to help our frontline officers do their jobs. The SNP are reversing that good work pay for their obsession with centralising control. The Justice Secretary must come before parliament to explain himself."
Chief Supt O'Connor said the figures quoted in the Sunday Herald have not been discussed by the police reform group, which he is a member of. He said: "As a member of that group, I haven't had an opportunity to scrutinise these figures.
"The new policing model for Scotland must comprise police officers and police staff, and obviously we would like to have an early meeting with Mr House and the convener of the new Scottish Police Authority to discuss this particular balance."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We have protected, and will continue to protect, frontline police numbers and the 1,000 extra officers we have delivered, which have helped reduce crime to a 37-year low, while the fear of crime has also fallen. We have also given a commitment to no compulsory redundancies among police support staff.
"Police reform provides a unique opportunity to improve services. The new service will eliminate duplication by working more effectively and efficiently, saving £1.7 billion over 15 years and supporting a single chief constable and one senior management team. It will be for the new chief constable and the Scottish Police Authority to determine the balance between police officers and police staff in the new service."