A UNION representative for backroom police staff will today tell MSPs that the Government's policies are "economic madness".

Dave Watson, of Unison, will tell Holyrood's Justice Committee that artificially maintaining 2000 police officers for the sake of an electoral pledge will lead to the loss of 3200 police support staff.

He will say: "Taking trained operational police officers off the streets to perform administrative or specialist tasks – at greater cost – is economic madness. It is also contrary to the Best Value provisions in the Act. This will return the police service in Scotland to almost the 1980s, with inefficient and outdated police practice."

Unison argues that the Scottish Police Authority and the Chief Constable should be free to decide the correct balance of police officers and police staff using Best Value principles.

"They should not be subject to a political direction from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice that effectively restricts cuts to police staffs," says the Unison submission.

Mr Watson will tell the committee the new single force must not be constrained by the Government insisting on maintaining police officer numbers at the figure of 17,234.

He argues that this limits how the force can make savings and is the key factor in proposals which could see up to 3200 vital police support staff posts axed, with potentially up to 2000 police officers taken off fighting crime full time to provide cover.