Scotland's under fire single police force has been criticised over a £25 million overspend blamed on a VAT bill amid union fears of further job losses.

Alison McInnes, Scottish Lib Dem justice spokeswoman, also criticised the absence of Chief Constable Sir Stephen House at the meeting where the budget-bursting announcement was made.

The Scottish Police Authority meeting in Stirling heard that the overspend has more than doubled from £11m earlier this year while the Scottish Government said part of the problem was that Scotland had been landed with a VAT bill from Westminster that other UK forces don't have to pay.

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SPA, the body that oversees police operations in Scotland, is to hold talks with ministers over cuts next week.

Ms McInnes said: "It is astonishing that the Chief Constable was nowhere to be seen at the Scottish Police Authority the day that we discovered that the force he leads will be £25m in the red by the end of the year.

"The hunt for his replacement continues but Sir Stephen needs to remember he is not out of a job just yet."

HeraldScotland: Lamara Bell

The single force has been involved on a series of scandals since it was set up in 2013 including the M9 crash in which a Falkirk couple were left in their crashed car for three days despite the alert having been raised with police.

John Yuill, 28, pictured below, died in the crash on the M9 near Stirling and Lamara Bell, 25, above died four days after being found following a second call to police.

Concerns have been raised over the operation of police call centres following the creation of the national force and a programme of cuts with 1,500 jobs lost, and unions including Unison claiming another 1,000 could be cut.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it "remains in deeply concerned of the glaring disparity of treatment between the service in Scotland and those in other parts of the UK where none of the other 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to pay VAT.

"This unfair treatment from the UK Treasury is costing Police Scotland more than £25m a year and we will continue to press the UK Government to bring their VAT status into line with all other British and Northern Irish Forces.”

HeraldScotland: John Yuill

Ms McInnes said: "The SNP were warned before centralising the police that their policy would see our emergency services become liable for VAT.

"This is certainly something that needs to be looked at again but it is no excuse for the figures published today.

"Crocodile tears from the SNP on VAT will not cut it when the force is facing the prospect of a £25 million overspend.”

A Police Scotland spokesman added: "Chief Constable House (pictured below) had diary commitments that meant he was unable to attend and DCC Designate is attending in his place."

HeraldScotland: Sir Stephen House

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said the force "continues to work with the SPA to identify savings on top of those already achieved".

An SPA spokeswoman said: "Members sought assurances from Police Scotland that everything possible was being done to mitigate against any overspend. The Board also requested an update on current budget planning in the coming weeks as well as sight of the longer term financial plan by the end of the year.”