SCOTLAND'S new national police force will immediately face a bill of more than £1 million a year for suspended officers and staff – some of whom have been absent from work for years.

Figures from the country's eight existing forces show they are paying out just less than £90,000 per month – a payment the already cash-strapped Police Scotland will inherit come April 1.

The money is paid to cover salaries for officers and civilian workers on suspension, gardening or extended leave while disciplinary procedures or criminal investigations into their conduct are carried out.

The data, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, shows officers and staff members are being paid to sit at home while others carry out their duties.

It has prompted anger from politicians who described the payments as an "incredible waste of money".

Scottish Conservative Chief Whip John Lamont said: "It's not unreasonable to expect some cost being diverted to this. But £1m a year is an incredible waste of money.

"When you consider the increased number of officers on restricted duties being kept off the frontline, it paints a grim picture.

"The single force will already be inheriting more than £100m worth of debt, and this is another cost it will have to endure. It does not bode well for an organisation whose creation was supposed to save taxpayers' money."

Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary, Lewis Macdonald, added that the new force needed to move quickly to get the 26 officers and seven staff involved back to work or off the books.

He said: "This is a huge amount of money to be spent on officers who are not doing their jobs. The budget for the new single force is already incredibly tight. These figures will only add to the worry of existing officers and staff who are facing huge uncertainty over their futures.

"Stephen House [chief constable of the new force] has already said current police numbers cannot be maintained within his budget. Where within the budget will this additional £1m be found to allow officers and staff to sit at home?"

The single force, which has a budget of £1.2 billion for 2013/14, is already facing a shortfall of £60m for its first year.

It has also been revealed that taxpayers face a £60m bill for axing civilian staff within the service and a £22m VAT bill.

The new force has been dogged by a power struggle between the Scottish Policy Authority (SPA) and the chief constable over issues including who oversees staff.

Mr Macdonald added: "All of the gains of civilianisation in the past 15 years, freeing up police officers to do real police work, are being thrown away by this reckless and incompetent SNP Government."

One of the officers on extended leave is Assistant Chief Constable John Mauger, from Central Scotland Police, who has been paid more than £104,000 a year for doing nothing since June 2010.

The police chief arrived at Central Scotland in 2009 after 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, but he is understood to have spoken out against the force's Chief Constable, Kevin Smith.

Mr Smith raised concerns about Mr Mauger's conduct, which has been described as "challenging, confrontational and generally poor".

But following an investigation, there has still been no decision in the case.

The Scottish Police Authority, the body that will hold the new force to account, said it has been working with the existing forces to establish the scale of personnel liabilities, including the officers being paid while others carry out their duties.

A spokeswoman said: "The SPA will inherit a whole range of assets and liabilities. We have been working with the existing employers for the past six months to understand the scale and extent of that and encourage early resolution wherever possible.

"However, it is clear we will take on a number of outstanding issues. As the legal employer we want to be fair and equitable with all officers and staff. However, we also have a duty of best value and that surely means getting a swift resolution where individuals get back to work or face the appropriate sanctions."

A Police Scotland spokeswoman added: "All officers currently suspended will be the subject of review by the deputy chief constable designate to ensure that a consistent approach is achieved across Scotland."