POLICE stop and search levels have fallen by a dramatic 93% following a host of scandals that led to sweeping reform of the policy.

Amnesty International welcomed the drop and argued that it reflected concerns about “arbitrary and discriminatory” searches.

An analysis of the figures over two years reveals that plummeting levels of non-statutory frisks - which depend on 'consent' rather than suspicion - are responsible for the shift.

Stop and search was the signature anti-crime policy of retired Police Scotland chief constable Stephen House, who believed it deterred crime and got knives and drugs off the streets.

In the first nine months of the single force, over 500,000 searches were recorded north of the border.

However, unprecedented scrutiny of the policy revealed flaws on a number of levels.

Officers, under pressure to carry out searches, were inputting bogus entries in a bid to keep the numbers up to please their superiors. The majority of the searches were also ‘negative’ and found no illicit items.

It also emerged that around 75% of the searches were non-statutory, meaning they were based on the consent of the individual and not rooted in law.

In some cases, babies and toddlers were even recorded as being searched on a consensual basis. Studies also queried the link between searches and falling crime.

According to Police Scotland’s own figures, search levels have now been reduced to a trickle.

The high-water mark was August 2013, when officers recorded 69,883 searches.

In December last year – the most recently available time period – the monthly total stood at 4,573.

An independent group set up by the Scottish Government last year backed the abolition of these frisks, a recommendation accepted by Ministers.

Although the non-statutory option remains in play for officers while a new Code of Practice is developed, there is a current ‘presumption against’ so-called 'consensual' searches.

In August 2013, 49,477 non-statutory searches – 71% of the total – were carried out.

This fell to 280 last December, the equivalent of 6% of all searches in that month.

Although the quality of the force's stop and search data was considered to be patchy before June 2015, police insiders agree there has been a huge reduction in the numbers.

Dr Kath Murray, an academic whose research led to reform of the policy, said: "Following the recent controversy, Police Scotland have made significant progress on stop and search. As well as the reduction in overall numbers, the proportion of non-statutory searches has fallen, and young people are less likely to be targeted. Recording procedures have improved, and the use of stop and search is more transparent and accountable.

“I'd suggest that the next step is to tackle the legacy of volume stop and search: to embed more constructive ways of policing young people, and to focus on strengthening relationships between local communities and the police."

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International's Scotland Programme Director, said: "The huge drop in numbers of stop and search being carried out by Police Scotland is encouraging, and may reflect our concerns about the arbitrary and discriminatory of some searches. Going forward, we hope the police will only use such powers with reasonable suspicion."

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur MSP said: "These figures show just how out of control stop and search had become. Industrial scale use of this controversial tactic, including the search of children with no real suspicion that they had committed a crime, was wholly unacceptable."

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “The Service recognises there has been a significant reduction in volume and this comes about as we work through a substantial programme of improvement around our use and recording of stop and search .

"It remains an effective policing tactic for dealing with many issues but stopping and searching members of the public is a significant intrusion into their personal liberty and privacy and we are committed to ensuring all our activity is carried out in a lawful, proportionate, justifiable and accountable manner. The improvements we are making will prepare the Service for the introduction of the new Code of Practice in early 2017 when the use of consensual search will cease."