A STATE-OF-THE-ART police computer system costing nearly £8 million to help the fight against crime in Scotland has been abandoned before it was ever used.

The IT system should by now have saved the country's eight police forces more than £30m, but it has cost at least five years of officers' time and has failed to deliver.

Labour branded the huge sums "staggering" and said the decision raised concerns over the plans for a single Police Service of Scotland from April 1 next year.

Justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: "This is a staggering turn of events. Not only did ministers fail to protect the single force from having to pay VAT, they have now failed to even get a unified computer system.

"It demonstrates ineptitude and incompetence at the highest levels. Making savings on IT and back-office costs was one of the key reasons for creating a single force. Taxpayers will be furious. Public money must be spent wisely and must be focused on crime prevention and detection."

The controversial £7.7m Common Performance Management Platform (CPMP) aimed to put the crime figures for the forces on an equal footing for detailed analysis.

Senior officers revealed yesterday it would face "early closure" following an evaluation. However, some of its software may be used in the future.

It will take a further three to five years to converge the disparate IT systems of the eight forces.

Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said: "They have wasted the equivalent of the first year's savings projected under police reform. IT is absolutely vital to officers being able to do their jobs. Compatible IT should be in place by now for the new single force.

"We keep being given assurances and yet there are no firm answers and there is no clarity about the savings."

Derek Penman, chief constable of Central Scotland Police and the IT lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), said the curtailment would avoid the need to spend a further £2m.

He said the public would see no difference in how calls and concerns were dealt with after the new force came in.

"We are trying to get to one single IT investment portfolio which is business-led rather than a number of discrete programmes," said Mr Penman. "One of the challenges is how we get the eight or 10 systems into one single system."

He said some of the other technology being tested would help make savings and free up officers' time in future. The aim, he added, was to avoid "teething problems" from day one of the new force.

Mr Penman said CPMP would have required a significant amount of time and money to deliver any results, but pointed out that other national IT projects were well advanced.

Acpos was encouraged to introduce the IT platform by the former Scottish Executive partly to enable it to publish league tables and identify best practice, as the Home Office does with forces south of the Border.

The project received £5.37m from the Efficient Government Funding pot.

Work began in 2006 and Acpos said the first phase – covering traffic collisions – would be rolled out more than two years ago. Each of the forces has been expected to give staff time to the project and bear a proportionate percentage of the cost.

Acpos spent £224,932 on legal fees associated with CPMP and paid out tens of thousands to private contractors.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in 2007 said CPMP "will be up and running in all eight Scottish forces and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency by April 2009 ... It was estimated during the bid process that efficiency savings of more than £30m by 2010 might be achieved through this project".

Chief Superintendent David O'Connor, president of the Association of Police Superintendents, said: "As we move forward to the new single force we have to ensure lessons are learned from this. A significant amount has been spent on IT systems which have failed to deliver – but this is the case across the public sector. For the future it will be essential we have a convergence strategy for IT systems."

The Passport Agency fiasco in the 1990s cost the taxpayer more than £12m and forced hundreds of people to cancel their holidays, and the NHS IT debacle cost £12.8 billion.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "Ministers are supportive of Acpos's decision to conduct a full review of its police IT projects ahead of police reform and end those projects which do not meet the needs or priorities of the new Police Service of Scotland."