The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has refused to rubber stamp the Holyrood Government's recorded figures, which show that crime is at a near 40-year low, amid allegations that police officers had massaged data.
The authority's indication that the figures are not meeting its high standards has been described as deeply worrying by opposition MSPs in Holyrood. The body's job is to safeguard official statistics and rule on whether they can be "designated", effectively giving them a pass mark.
In the 2012-13 figures, which were part of the assessment, the government reported that non-sexual crimes of violence were down by 21 per cent and homicides by 25 per cent. Attempted murder and serious assault were also recorded as falling by 22 per cent.
A raft of other figures was presented against the backdrop of the lowest recorded crime stats since 1974. However, the authority has dealt a blow to the credibility of the government figures.
"We conclude that the statistics do not currently comply with several elements of the Code of Practice," the report noted.
The authority said the government should obtain "strong levels of assurance" about the quality of the figures, but warned: "This report concludes that the Scottish Government lacks sufficient evidence to be able to provide such appropriate reassurance."
Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman and a former senior police officer, said: "The integrity of these statistics is an important confidence issue for the public. If we cannot trust these figures, our trust in wider policing issues evaporates. The steps by the UK Statistics Authority in that light is extremely worrying.
"It is indicative of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's hands-off approach to the justice system. He seems to believe he should be a step away from these matters."