COUNCIL leaders have signalled they will end funding for community police officers due to local government cuts.

Edinburgh currently stumps up £2.6 million a year for 54 additional officers, but is now considering slashing this as it tries to plug funding gaps.

Giving evidence to a Holyrood committee, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed Glasgow has also raised concerns.

It came as he insisted Brexit had been a "game-changer" for Scotland's police force as it prepares to recruit 120 more officers.

Mr Yousaf faced questions over directly-funded local authority police officers at Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing.

Raising Edinburgh’s situation, Scottish Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell asked: “Are there other local authorities in the same situation, who say they simply can’t afford it with the local government settlement?”

Mr Yousaf replied: “I know other local authorities I work with – I’m a Glasgow MSP, I know Glasgow City Council have also raised issues around their ability to fund local officers.

“But I haven’t had anything come in to me as far as I’m aware from a particular local authority…saying that they are not able to fund anything.”

Council officials in Edinburgh have drawn up plans to scrap funding for police officers in a bid to plug a £47m financial hole.

The capital contributes more to policing than anywhere else in Scotland, but some councillors insist the cash is an “indulgence”. Many councils have ended funding altogether.

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said communities “rightly expect visible and accessible officers who play a vital role in investigating crime and giving reassurance”.

He added: “Legacy funding arrangements mean 144 officers were this year paid for by local authorities.

“Similar funding levels are included in our financial planning which budgets for an average of 16,834 officers in the next financial year.

“'The service would benefit from rationalisation of our funding to provide the flexibility needed to respond to growing and unpredictable operational demand.”

Mr Yousaf said plans to recruit 120 extra officers would "ensure capacity and resilience is in place to prepare against a range of contingencies associated with Brexit".

He said: "No-deal Brexit planning, and Brexit planning generally, has been a complete game-changer.

"Any reduction in police officer numbers, it's my understanding, for the next financial year, or the first half of that financial year, will be halted.

"So therefore, potentially has the impact of having an impact on the deficit reduction plans.

"Until we know what kind of Brexit we are looking at, what kind of deal we're looking at, clearly that's going to have an impact on every single one of our public services, and Police Scotland is not immune to that."

There were 17,147 full-time equivalent officers in Scotland at the end of September – the lowest level in almost a decade.

Police Scotland previously announced it would slow recruitment between 2018 and 2020 amid a funding gap.

Responding to a question on whether Brexit could affect future recruitment, Mr Yousaf said: "Police Scotland have been doing a trawl of the staff and officers to determine how many EU citizens they have as part of Police Scotland.

"There's no doubt from earlier work I have seen around our Brexit planning, that EU citizens make a great contribution to our police service, both in staff and in officer terms."