STOP and search operations by Police Scotland have almost halved across the country following unprecedented scrutiny of the controversial policy.

In Greater Glasgow alone, the number of frisks dropped by around 70 per cent in August compared to the same month last year. Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, said the fall was "good news" and evidence the tactic had been based on target-setting.

A signature policy of single force chief constable Sir Stephen House, stop and search is aimed at catching individuals in possession of drugs, weapons and alcohol. In the first nine months of the single force, 519,213 searches were recorded - a rate three times higher than in the Metropolitan Police Service.

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It also emerged thousands of children under 12, as well as some toddlers and babies, had been searched.Police Scotland faced allegations that officers, under pressure to keep the search rates up, had entered bogus entries into the force database.

New figures released under freedom of information legislation reveal that the search rate has tumbled since the tactic was put under the microscope. In August last year, according to a previous dataset published by the BBC, 69,836 searches were recorded across Scotland. In the same month this year, the figure fell to 35,544 - a drop of just under 50 per cent.

Police Scotland has phased out searches for children under 12 and a pilot in Fife is under way to increase transparency. A probe by the Scottish Police Authority also recommended reform of the policy, while Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary is conducting its own "audit and assurance" review.

Mr Pearson said: "The significant year-on-year falls recorded for stop and search confirm the views I expressed last year that stop and search was being driven by target setting and not concern for public safety. The fact that both the Police and the Authority have finally listened after considerable reluctance is, in the end, good news."

Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes said: "The SPA found no evidence of a relationship between the level of stop and search and reductions in violent crime and anti-social behaviour. The fact that Police Scotland is evidently able to reduce the use of this tactic without any suggestion of a subsequent crime spree demonstrates this."