SCOTTISH police chiefs have won ­inflation-busting pay rises of more than £10,000 a year in a move branded ­"insensitive" as civilian staff brace themselves for fresh redundancies.

Police Scotland's six assistant chief constables (ACCs) have each secured a fixed annual salary of £115,000 in a deal negotiated without fanfare before Christmas.

It makes the senior officers the best paid of their rank in the UK outside the Metropolitan Police and is designed to reflect an increased workload in the new single Scottish police force that began operation in April last year.

However, Graeme Pearson MSP, Labour's justice spokesman, questioned the timing after Chief Constable Sir Stephen House recently warned of further civilian job losses due to "significant rationalisation".

Mr Pearson, a former deputy chief constable, said: "It is lacking in ­sensitivity when some staff are being made redundant and those who remain are having to satisfy themselves with a pay rise of 1%. I think some officers will also see a rise of around £10,000 in salary as insensitive."

The police chiefs are just the latest senior public servants to collect big pay rises despite the deepening bite of austerity on the public purse.

On Monday, it emerged that almost half of all university principals had received above-inflation pay rises last year, with salaries dwarfing those of First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Last year pay restrictions were relaxed for senior NHS managers, despite protests against "enriching fat cats" by the Scottish Patients Association.

However, police sources have insisted the rise for the ACCs reflected the new duties they have taken on since the creation of the single force.

Of Scotland's six ACCs, three have nationwide responsibilities: Bernard Higgins for operational support; Malcolm Graham for major crime and public protection; and Ruaraidh ­Nicolson for organised crime and counter-terrorism.

The other three are responsible for local policing - Derek Penman (north of Scotland), Mike McCormick (east) and Wayne Mawson (west).

Police Scotland's website states all six were on salaries of between £91,000 and nearly £107,000 a year, the same as they received under equivalent posts in their former positions in "legacy" forces. The new deal, however, also means they lose bonuses.

Sir Stephen's salary increased to £208,100 when he moved from the same post at the now defunct Strathclyde force to Police Scotland. His deputies, Neil Richardson, Rose Fitzpatrick, Iain Livingstone and Steve Allen were also put on new annual salaries of £169,600 from Police Scotland's launch.

Chief Superintendent David O'Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, believes ACCs should have received a new pay deal last year.

He said: "The new pay scale has been agreed through the Police Negotiating Board and it is in line with the new roles of assistant chief constables. Ideally, it should have been introduced at the advent of Police Scotland. These are clearly bigger jobs with much more responsibility and accountability."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government stressed that its overall bill for senior officers had fallen since the new force began after what amounted to a cull of chief officers at the former forces around Scotland and agencies.

A spokeswoman said: "This has now reduced the total costs of the senior officer team by half to £2 million. Senior officers in Police Scotland have significantly higher profile and greater responsibilities in a single service which covers the whole country.

"Reform and a single service are ­safeguarding policing from ­Westminster budget cuts and reducing the ­duplication built into the previous structure with 10 police organisations."