PUNITIVE pension changes and the move to a single force in Scotland have been blamed for the loss of 80 officers in one former force area.

Leaving rates for the first six months of 2013 are in line with the figures for the whole of 2012, when 69 officers left the old Grampian Police area last year.

And of those 69 staff members, 24 said their reason for leaving was so they could move into another sector of work - which is just one less than the figures for 2011 and 2012 combined.

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The problem is exacerbated by Aberdeen's booming oil trade which is believed to be an extra incentive for staff to leave their position for.

Graham Sloan, of the Scottish Police Federation in Aberdeen, said the rates of departure in the A&B division, which covers Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray are higher than anywhere else in the country. He said: "There are two things at play here. You have what is happening with pensions and then there is the restructuring. For me, pensions are the key here.

"Police officers pay some of the highest percentage contribution rates into their pensions across the public sector. For many officers this will mean paying more than £400 a month into a pension with no additional benefit.

"We have seen far larger numbers of mid-service officers leave to pursue other opportunities."

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "Police officers will leave the service for a number of reasons including retirement, seeking employment elsewhere and for reasons related to professional standards. Police Scotland is committed to ensuring that the number of police officers is maintained above 17,234."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: "The recruitment and retention of police officers is rightly a matter for Police Scotland."