POLICE Scotland has refused to reveal details of its national targets and how they are measured despite admitting they are a matter of public interest.

In a surprising move, the national force has rejected a ­Freedom of Information request to reveal information about its controversial key performance indicators (KPIs).

It comes after frontline officers warned that a targets culture in Police Scotland was seriously damaging relations with the public and making it inevitable that police officers would massage figures so as to make out that targets were being met.

Police Scotland has denied there is a policy of setting individual officer targets in Scotland.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill refused a recent ­parliamentary question from MSP Graeme Pearson about KPIs on the grounds that the "information requested is an operational matter for Police Scotland and is not held centrally by the Scottish Government".

However, when The Herald asked for the details of the KPIs this request was refused on the grounds it is under discussion with the Scottish Government.

The Herald asked for a national and divisional breakdown of KPIs, what they include, how they are recorded and what targets are set for individual departments and officers.

The refusal letter to The Herald states: "Premature disclosure of the management information would detrimentally impact on these sensitive discussions which have yet to reach a conclusion.

"Consequently we decline to disclose further information as it would prejudice substantially, or be likely to prejudice substantially, the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of Section 30(c) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

"While there is a public interest in how the police measure their performance and aim to improve it, disclosure of the information while discussions are ongoing would tend to prejudice substantially those discussions and ­therefore, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in disclosure is outweighed by that in maintaining the exemption.

"However, I would take this opportunity to iterate, from a force perspective, that no individual officer targets are set in relation to KPI's and similarly the force does not require the setting of each officer's objectives, which they are later appraised on, have to be specifically linked to KPI's."

Labour's Justice spokesman Graeme Pearson said: "Local communities should know this information. This is integral to policing in a democratic society."

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "There are ongoing ­discussions between Police ­Scotland, the Scottish Government, and the Scottish Police Authority regarding the best approach to make public ­disclosure of policing performance information."

He reiterated concerns relating to "premature disclosure of the management information".

David O'Connor, President of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) said: "ASPS understands the need for performance indicators within Police Scotland and how they can help improve the ­understanding and the reporting of achievements in the new service.

"They also will also ensure that other stakeholders and the public are kept informed about how Police Scotland responds to the demands placed upon it at a time of reducing budgets and significant change."