SCOTTISH policing has become a national "political football", a senior English officer has warned.

Ian Wiggett, Greater Manchester Police's assistant chief constable, believes senior officers north of the border can do nothing but "minimise criticism" as the force drifts from one PR disaster to another.

Mr Wiggett, who is England and Wales' national lead on systems thinking, was responding on social media to what he saw as the new politicised nature of policing in Scotland and the Netherlands, which has also recently switched to a single force.

English and Welsh forces have also mooted similar mergers as they face budget pressures far in excess of those seen in Scotland, where cuts have been offset.

Mr Wiggett, in a Twitter conversation, said: "The situation in Scotland feels similar to Netherlands after they created a single national force. Regions object to centralisation and loss of influence, while policing becomes a political football at national level.

"Given the inevitability of 'adverse events', it becomes a good vehicle to attack politically

"In those circumstances, police leaders can only ever hope to minimise the criticism, I suggest."

Police Scotland insiders stress that the old eight territorial forces and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency also suffered "adverse events".

The old eight-force and SCDEA system, they point out, produced more stop and searches than the single force - but practically none of the political scrutiny.

Police Scotland faces several key milestones in coming months, all capable of of generating more bad headlines.

These include a decision by its main watchdog on whether Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson, a close ally of Sir Stephen, "cheated" during a command course (which he is understood to deny).

Also on the horizon are reports in the stop and search, investigations in to the deaths of M9 crash victims John Yuill and Lamara Bell and the death in custody of 31-year-old Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy.

English police chiefs - who have lost the equivalent of the entire Police Scotland staff from their numbers in recent years - are watching the Scottish scenario with interest.

Another senior officer, newly confirmed Avon and Somerset Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, said criticism of Police Scotland was not just "drip drip".

Also on Twitter, Mr Morgan, who is Scottish, said: "Feels more of a torrent at times. The dynamics & relationships in Scotland look and feel different."

Writing in today's Herald, Kenny MacAskill, who as justice secretary, helped bring Police Scotland in to being, also stressed the danger of "adverse events" dominating policing.

He said: "Errors happen and officers fall from grace but that happens in all walks of life. Police Scotland remains a service not a business or a force.

"Officers carry out what is often a difficult and dangerous job routinely unarmed; and frequently under working conditions many would baulk at."

But Mr MacAskill, who now sits on the back benches, said he believed policing in Scotland was now better placed than the NHS or councils, which are unreformed, to handle austerity.

He said: "Had change not been made then the situation being played out south of the Border would have afflicted Scotland.

"Moreover, in some forces significant issues that affect communities routinely are no longer classified as police matters. Privatisation may well return to the agenda.

"In Scotland without change larger forces would have struggled and smaller ones would simply have been unable to deliver both police numbers and service."