POLICE facilities are “at a precipice”, with victims of sex crimes being interviewed in mouldy rooms with leaking roofs and vehicles held together with “duct tape and cable ties”, the body representing rank and file officers has warned Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) used a fringe event at the SNP conference to ambush Mr Matheson on the issue, surprising him with a slideshow to back up its claims.

It included a police car with a window held in place with tape, a disintegrating door greeting victims of crime, and even a crop of mushrooms growing through a carpet.

Speaking as Mr Matheson sat a few yards away, SPF General Secretary Calum Steele told delegates: “If we do not turn our attention to dealing with these things now our police service is going to go off a cliff edge. We are at a precipice, there are huge risks to this service."

Mr Matheson said the problems stemmed from decades of under-investment by local joint police boards prior to the creation of Police Scotland under the SNP.

However he acknowledged more money was needed to fix the crumbling police estate.

Mr Steele said councillors and joint boards had made “a pig’s ear” of looking after services before Scotland’s eight forces were merged in 2013, with asbestos still a problem in buildings despite it being phased out of construction in the 1960s.

He said he remained convinced the Police Scotland had the best approach to policing of any service in the world, but it faced “a genuine crisis” over its offices, IT and equipment.

“We have police vehicles held together with duct tape and cable ties," he said. “That is what is keeping our fleet together on the road right now because we have no money.”

Showing a picture of a room where sex crime victims were questioned after a “harrowing ordeal”, he pointed out the “mould on the carpets” and “damp on the ceilings”.

Water entering the roof meant it “absolutely stinks of damp”, he said.

He asked delegates to imagine how they or their sister or daughter would feel being confronted with such conditions if they had been attacked and gone to the police for help.

He said a failure to replace IT services had also left officers using obsolete versions of Windows which Microsoft no longer supported.

He said: “Decades of failures cannot be afforded to be left unchecked at this point of time, because if we do we will have a service that rather than delivering excellence can only ever aspire to mediocrity, and I don't think that's going to be good enough."

Police revenue spending is expected to be £21m over budget this financial year.

Mr Steele continued: "Police officers are doing a hell of a job under very, very difficult circumstances, the scale of the financial challenge facing the police service is enormous.”

Responding to the criticism, Mr Matheson said: “These are not issues that have just arisen through the creation of Police Scotland, they have been there for many, many years.

“It is going to take time in order to deal with some of these issues.”

He said Police Scotland had an “estate plan” to prioritise capital investment.

Scottish Labour justice spokesperson Claire Baker said: “The conditions of some interview rooms are clearly unacceptable. Police officers and staff work hard every day to keep people safe but are being let down by a government who won’t give them the resources they need.”

LibDem Liam McArthur said: “Over the summer there were reports of officers being forced to buy their own kit and being told not to investigate drug dealers because of fears over the cost of overtime. Now we are seeing police cars being held together with duct tape and cable ties, and damp in police stations. The make do and mend approach that the Scottish Government have inflicted on our police will not deliver the quality service we need."

David Page, director of corporate services, strategy and change at Police Scotland, said: "Police Scotland acknowledges it is operating under budgetary pressures.

"We are committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our staff and delivering an excellent service to our communities and regularly review our operational policing requirements to ensure police officers and staff have the facilities and equipment required to perform their duties.

"The inherited building estate and vehicle fleet are constantly under review to ensure police officers and staff have the facilities and equipment required to perform their duties."