POLICE representatives have criticised the SNP after it trumpeted a boost in officer numbers. 

Community safety minister Ask Denham hailed statistics showing the number of officers has risen by 1,025 to 17,259 since the SNP took power in 2007.

But Calum Steele, general-secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents rank and file officers, took issue with the boast.

He wrote on Twitter: “Whilst the raw numbers are accurate this is in fact not the complete picture or down to current Scottish Government policy.

“The SNP has been underfunding the service to the point we are heading to headcount lower than a decade ago.

"If you want to revel in the glory – stump up the cash.”

It comes amid an ongoing row over police funding and officer numbers. 

David Hamilton, vice chair of the SPF, said Ms Denham’s post was “accurate-ish, but only because of Brexit”.

In a series of online posts, he wrote: “Had it not been for the contingency reserve, we would currently be down to 16,834 (as per budget). That’s a 2.3 per cent reduction.

“But it’s worse – when that risk passes we will have to cut even deeper to make up for the lost saving for this year.

“And the prospect of trying to police on residual numbers, without access to the reserve for events etc, is worrying frontline officers and commanders across the service.

“Furthermore establishment figures are recorded a few days after quarterly recruitment intakes – which inflate numbers with new untrained recruits. Count a week earlier and you can deduct 200 from that headline figure.

“Scratch the surface and you’ll see we are not in the sunny position being portrayed in the SNP tweet.”

Mr Hamilton said the force had previously planned to cut 400 officers as part of cash-saving measures. 

However, due to the upheaval caused by Brexit, this proposal was suspended – leaving police chiefs with 400 extra officers they did not expect to be funding.

And there are now fears even greater cuts will need to be made in future years to get Police Scotland's budget back on course.

The force is already facing a shortfall of at least £22.1 million this year.  

Mr Hamilton said: "Because Police Scotland runs at an operating loss, it just means that the ability to balance the books has very much diminished."

He said the SNP's claims were "not a particularly helpful contribution to the debate about public finances". 

Mr Steele also criticised a tweet from the SNP’s “fact-checking and rebuttal service”, which said police officer numbers have risen by 6.3% under the party.

It added that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “pledge to recruit 20,000 officers was immediately shot down by experts and his own policing minister, who said there were ‘logistical challenges’ with the proposals”.

Mr Steele insisted the Scottish force is underfunded and does not have enough money to pay for the officers it currently has.

He added: “It’s also heading to the lowest number in over a decade.

"The Scottish Government used to deride cuts – now it’s presiding over them (just as Boris recognises folly of, and is reversing England and Wales cuts).”

Mr Johnson has announced he will spend £1.1 billion on an extra 20,000 police officers in England and Wales. 

This is expected to result in around £100 million for the Scottish Government through the Barnett formula, which funnels money to Scotland to reflect spending south of the Border.

Police Scotland's Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr previously said the force has budgeted for 16,834 officers in the current financial year. 

He said: "In January, the Chief Constable announced his decision to maintain a further 400 officers required to deliver and support the operational implications of Brexit at an estimated additional cost of £17 million.

"With investment we can make efficiencies, such as mobile working, to enhance front line capacity as we build a sustainable service."

The SNP said police officer numbers in England and Wales have fallen by 21,000 since the Tories took power. 

Rona Mackay MSP said: “Boris Johnson’s U-turn on police numbers in England and Wales is long overdue, but his record on broken promises speaks for itself. His own ministers have even questioned the logistics of his flagship plans.  

“And if implemented, his commitments will only partially reverse the cuts the Tories have already made, and it won't undo the damage done through years of starving the police of vital funding.

“This is a clear tale of two governments – a Scottish Government supporting our police to make our streets safer and a new Prime Minister hell-bent on leaving the EU, ideologically obsessed with austerity, and ready to deliver untold damage to public services across the UK.”