COMPLAINTS against one of Scotland's top policemen suspended amid allegations of misconduct include claims he covered up for a fellow officer accused of "stealing" a rucksack belonging to the force.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins was removed from his post with immediate effect by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Friday afternoon following an anonymous complaint.

It is now understood he and a colleague, Chief Inspector Bob Glass, have been sidelined pending an investigation into the purchase of a police rucksack, among other allegations.

A source revealed that CI Glass is accused of using police funds to buy a rucksack for the force's armed services division that would be used for transporting equipment to the firing range.

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill: New SPA chief has been handed a baptism of fire

The rucksack - and whether it was used for police purposes - is now at the centre of the probe into the pair.

Other claims against ACC Higgins are said to include the use of "industrial language", and that he was involved in the suspension of a firearms licence and the confiscation of weapons from a man suspected of domestic abuse.

A police source said suspending ACC Higgins appeared to be a spectacular own-goal and out of proportion with the claims made against him.

"There's no reason on God's earth for anyone to be suspended over this. This mess is now threatening to trash the reputation of one of the best police officers in the country."

READ MORE: Justice Secretary told to 'get a grip' of Police Scotland

"It seems to be being claimed that there was an attempt to pervert the course of justice by not having the theft of the bag reported to the Crown. This wasn't a hugely expensive item of equipment and it is ridiculous to suspend someone over that. It is a huge own goal by the service."

Other senior police sources have expressed bemusement at the suspension of ACC Higgins over the allegations, all of which were made in an anonymous letter sent to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC), which subsequently referred them to the Crown for investigation.

Almost all the claims made against ACC Higgins are understood to have been previously investigated and found to be without substance.

Police sources say it is right that officers are held to a different standard than members of the public, and all complaints against them are investigated thoroughly.

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill: New SPA chief has been handed a baptism of fire

However the claim of theft against Mr Glass is said to be open to interpretation while sources expressed particular doubt over the complaint relating to firearms licensing as this would not have fallen under ACC Higgins remit, and in any case Police Scotland has a policy of automatically confiscating legally-held firearms in all cases where domestic abuse is alleged.

The Scottish Police Federation has expressed concern that the allegations were deemed worthy of suspension by the Scottish Police Authority. A spokesman said: "Whilst it is always difficult to talk about specifics due to an ongoing investigation the information we have suggests the suspension of our members and others is unwarranted.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Police Authority said "It is our policy not to comment on complaints while they are ongoing".

A spokesman for ACC Bernard Higgins said "Mr Higgins denies and rejects any allegations of wrongdoing. He will fully cooperate with the investigation. He intends to resume his duties as soon as this matter has been resolved."

READ MORE: Justice Secretary told to 'get a grip' of Police Scotland

Writing in the Herald today, former Justice secretary Kenny Macaskill describes the suspensions as "surprising."

"Both the SPA and the Police and Information Commissioner (PIRC) have been heavily involved it seems and in due course questions may arise over their role. That the former organisation acted in a manner so precipitous to the service and prejudicial to individuals, when a new Chair was arriving in days is strange indeed." he said.