POLICE Scotland has continued the SNP's pledge to maintain 1000 extra officers - despite shedding 178 in the last year, according to official figures.

There were 1024 more officers in Scotland at December 31 2013 than the SNP inherited in 2007, figures published by Scotland's chief statistician show. The 17,258 full-time equivalent officers is an increase of 6.3% from March 31 2007.

Numbers have decreased by 56 in the last quarter and 178 since December 31 2012, a drop of 1%.

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The pledge to maintain at least 1000 additional officers was a key part of the SNP's last two election manifestos.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "This Government is continuing to deliver on our commitment to keep over 1000 extra officers to keep our streets safe and contribute to an almost 40-year low in recorded crime.

"The number of additional police numbers is now moving towards 1000, keeping costs down while continuing to exceed our target.

"This contrasts with the position in England and Wales where officer numbers are now at their lowest level in 11 years."

But opposition politicians said the statistics raised questions about the impact of police centralisation.

Alison McInnes, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman, said: "What these top line figures do not tell us is the extent of the practice of backfilling. If police officers are having to spend time mitigating civilian staff cuts then any grand pledge on numbers will become meaningless.

"I remain concerned that the SNP's centralisation plans will turn our police into a faceless organisation. With the majority of frontline police control rooms marked for closure, Kenny MacAskill has questions to answer over the real impact of police centralisation."