SCOTTISH communities may see reduced police services for the rest of the year as officers scramble to take leave, rest days and time owed built up over the Commonwealth Games.
Force insiders have warned the sheer scale of Glasgow 2014's security operation - one of the biggest staged in the country with more than 109,000 deployments - will have a knock-on effect on the streets for months.
Labour's Graeme Pearson MSP, a former chief officer, said he believed Police Scotland would face a substantial backlog of time-off-in-lieu (Toil) after many officers carried out lengthy shifts, some effectively acting as security guards for the Games.
Mr Pearson said: "One of the legacies communities will see post the Games will be they will effectively pay for Toil, rest days and annual leave."
The former director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency said he believed all Toil and delayed annual holidays should have been fully funded from the Games safety and security budget, which tripled to £90 million, enough money to fund more than 2000 police officers for a year.
The force confirmed overtime accrued during the Games, which end tomorrow, would come from the event's security budget. Officers can decide whether to take overtime in cash, or as Toil, which is returned at one hour and a third for every eligible hour worked. This means Toil, and delayed holidays and rest days, form what insiders call a hidden cost of the Games, but overtime does not.
It is understood the overall security budget for the event is forecast to be slightly overspent. The final figure may hinge on how many officers take a payout. Equally, the level of service over the next few months may depend on how many choose to take their time back in lieu.
A Police Scotland spokesman insisted the force had "ensured we have enough officers in place to deliver the safety and security operation, maintain service to communities across the rest of Scotland and ensure uninterrupted service post-event".
He added: "Plans have been put in place with the support of the Police Federation to allow officers extended time to take any outstanding rest days they may have accrued from Commonwealth Games deployment."
It is understood The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has summoned senior officers to explain how services will be maintained post-Games.
An SPA spokeswoman described the security operation as "very successful" but added: "We will be seeking assurances on how Police Scotland will strike a balance between fulfilling officer holiday and Toil requirements while maintaining operational policing for the remainder of the year."
Complaints have already been raised from across the country as police services were scaled down with officers mobilised en masse to travel to Glasgow.
The Liberal Democrats believe the police force should have imported more officers from the rest of the UK to keep pressure down on ordinary policing across the country. Alison McInnes MSP said: "Communities are being denuded of the police service."
Calum Steele, secretary general of the Scottish Police Federation, said: "It would be unfair to suggest any diminution of service, when logic dictates service must have been enhanced in the first place to allow Toil to be accrued."