Every police officer in Scotland is to be retrained in data protection laws amid mounting concerns over snooping.

The national force has taken a robust position against officers or staff who access information held in its computers without a legitimate reason.

So much so that its critics - including high-profile SNP MSP Linda Fabiani - believe Police Scotland has been heavy-handed in its treatment of those who have erred.

Scores of officers are on restricted duties while under investigation for data protection breaches.

Police Scotland's Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) announced a retraining package in a report to the force's main civilian watchdog, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA)

The unit said: "This training is mandatory and will reinforce the obligations the service has under the Data Protection Act , as well as highlighting other areas of potential risk.

"It also sets out when officers and staff can legitimately access data and highlight the risks associated with this data access."

CCU officers primarily aim to ensure that confidential police information is not leaked to organised crime groups constantly trying to infiltrate law enforcement, either to stay ahead of investigators or to gather their own intelligence about gangland rivals.

However, critics believe the unit has been zealous in its pursuit of officers who have access information - but not passed it on.

One solicitor, Aamer Anwar, has accused the service of using data protection offences as a "catch-all" or "sledgehammer" and an MSP, the SNP's Linda Fabiani, has said she fears there was a "culture of secrecy".

Both have called on both the Scottish Government and the Holyrood justice committee to look at internal investigations in to the police.

The CCU itself has been at the centre of data protection rows.

Its actions led to Police Scotland being rapped by the UK's for improperly accessing the data of possible journalistic sources - including phone bills - as it sought the potential source of a newspaper story about a live murder investigation.

MSPs on the justice committee still have questions about how officers failed to secure judicial approval for five data interceptions. These breaches took place fully 22 days after new UK-wide guidelines were imposed to ensure the police could not snoop on the data of journalistic sources, including police officers, without the say-so of a judge or sheriff.

The CCU, in its report to the SPA, revealed that the Scottish Government had sought an update on alleged data protection offending by officers in November 2015.

It added: "A series of roadshows and workshops are also being rolled out across Divisions to reinforce the preventative message. In addition, presentations which reinforce the key messages and individual responsibilities in terms of the Data Protection Act continue to be provided at number of training courses undertaken by police officers and police staff."

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which has been unhappy with the hard line taken by CCU and the force on data protection, said it was unaware of such activity.

Calum Steele, the federation's general secretary, said: "The SPF has no direct knowledge of any detailed or specific data protection training being delivered to officers.

"We can only conclude that this is an online exercise as part of something else and that whilst it may tick a box, it will not amount to proper training on this issue

"In any event this does not change the fact that accessing of data and misuse of data are fundamentally different and that it is the latter that should be subject to prosecutions.

"Disappointingly, an unwillingness to recognise this sees disproportionate time and effort dedicated to investigating and prosecuting police officers for minor technical breaches of poorly drafted legislation."

Any police officer suspected or accused of data protection breaches must be reported to the Crown Office for prosecution. All criminal allegations against police officers - unlike those against the public - are treated this way.

However, this practice means that alleged data protection breaches take far longer than other police disciplinary matters.

As of February 2015, 38 officers had been on restricted duties for more than 700 days, more than half of them were under investigation for data protection issues and nothing else.