POLICE officers would be banned by law from performing suspicionless stop and searches on members of the public, under plans to be tabled at Holyrood within days.

The single police force is expected to stop non-statutory searches, but the Scottish Liberal Democrats want to go further by ending the practice through legislation.

Police Scotland chief constable Stephen House has endured sustained criticism of his frisk policy, with the Sunday Herald campaigning since March for sweeping changes to the policy.

In 2013/14, over 600,000 searches were recorded, only 30% of which were based on officers having a reasonable suspicion of individuals carrying drugs, knives and other items.

The other 70% were non-statutory searches, which have no basis in law and are supposedly based on consent.

The suspicionless searches have already been banned in England and Wales but are retained north of the border.

Assistant chief constable Wayne Mawson last year told Holyrood that non-statutory frisks on under 12s were "indefensible" and would be scrapped.

However, it emerged this week that hundreds of under 12s had continued to be searched in this way after Mawson's announcement.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon contacted House and both agreed a review would take place to consider scrapping non-statutory searches altogether.

However, such a move would be a voluntary exercise by Police Scotland.

Given that the single force has already ignored its own ban on consensual searches of under 12s, Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Alison McInnes believes a legal curb is necessary.

On February 16th, she will table amendments to the Government's Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill that would prevent officers from searching people or vehicles without statutory grounds.

The amendment, obtained by this newspaper, states: "It is immaterial whether the person consents to being the subject of a search."

McIness will also push for a Code of Practice to be enshrined in law that makes clear which types of information should be recorded by police following a search.

The single force does not record whether searches lead to arrests, a gap that makes it impossible to judge the overall success of the policy.

McInnes told the Sunday Herald:

"The only way to guarantee for good that stop and search will be accountable and regulated is for parliament to legislate. My amendments will put a stop to discredited consensual stop and search.

"These will in no way limit the extensive and appropriate statutory powers that police have to search for drugs, guns and knives. This is about ensuring a healthy balance between civil liberties and protections."

At First Minister's Questions last week, Sturgeon hinted to LibDem leader Willie Rennie that she could back a legislative ban:

"There may be an argument for doing what he suggests, in order to take a belt-and-braces approach, and I am happy to give that consideration, but what I have shared with Parliament today is the desire of the chief constable to move to the position to which Willie Rennie wants to get."

Stop and search was House's signature policy at the old Strathclyde force and was rolled out nationally when Police Scotland came into being.

In the Fife council area, searches increased by around 400%.

Scotland's frisk rate is proportionately far higher than in the Metropolitan Police and nine times higher than in the area covered by the New York Police Department.

Kath Murray, an Edinburgh University research fellow who first exposed the extensive use of stop and search, said: "This move is very much welcome, however it will need legislative teeth. Put simply, it doesn't seem appropriate for the Chief Constable to take away a power that wasn't given to him in the first place. Non-statutory stop and search needs to be clearly prohibited by law. Existing and future powers should be regulated by a Code of Practice, as per the Scottish Liberal Democrat proposals, and the use of these powers needs to be made accountable to the public."

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick, said: "Stop and search has been an important tool in keeping people safe, which remains a priority for both Police Scotland and Scottish Government. We will consult with our partners the Scottish Police Authority and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to ensure that the health and wellbeing particularly of young people, is protected through appropriate legislative powers.