MSPs have backed a commitment to rehabilitate more offenders in the community instead of prison despite a "lack of widespread support" for the Scottish Government's plan.

Holyrood's Justice Committee backed the general principles of the Community Justice Bill, but found no "great enthusiasm for the exact model in the Bill" from experts.

Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse wants to shift resources from prisons to community-based disposals, but the current community justice system is considered unfit for purpose.

The committee acknowledged there are "significant problems" with the current community justice system, particularly over accountability, funding and complexity.

Former lord advocate Dame Elish Angiolini found weaknesses in strategic leadership in the complex community justice system in her review of women offenders, a view backed by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland.

However, the committee said the Bill as drafted may not achieve "the appropriate balance between strong national leadership, to drive forward improvements in performance, and local flexibility in relation to the delivery of services".

It has recommended the proposed national body Community Justice Scotland be given stronger oversight to "provide the robust strategic leadership and accountability found to be lacking in the existing model".

The committee also has doubt over whether the proposals will simplify the current complexities.

Committee convener Christine Grahame said: "The committee accepts that improvements to community justice structures and arrangements are required.

"While the evidence we received did not show any great enthusiasm for the exact model in the Bill, there was an acceptance that it would be difficult to achieve one that all bodies involved in community justice would be wholly satisfied with.

"We had particular concerns that the detailed proposals in the Bill may not achieve the correct balance between strong national leadership, improvements in performance, and local flexibility in relation to the delivery of services.

"We have therefore recommended that the oversight functions of the national body are strengthened to provide the robust leadership and accountability which is missing from current arrangements.

"We have also urged the Government to clarify the duties of the national and local bodies and the balance of responsibilities between the two, and on how the model is expected to work in practice, to clear up ambiguity over the new arrangements.

"All of us should be aiming to prevent people offending in the first place and it is important to acknowledge the important role of early intervention and prevention. This makes sense from a public protection perspective whilst also reducing pressure on the public purse.

"We hope the Scottish Government reflects upon our recommendations and we look forward to considering amendments at Stage 2."