COMPENSATION paid out by Police Scotland to staff and the public has hit a new high, nearly doubling in four years to top £3m a year. the Herald can reveal.

In 2019, the force paid out £3.31m in damages as a result of 227 claims, up from £1.725m from 250 claims in 2015 and a 65% rise on the previous year when there were £2.61m in claims.

Nearly £1m of that has been gone to private individuals in 2019, according to official data seen by the Herald.

It comes as the amount of compensation paid out under employers liability payments made to staff, including police officers has soared from £484,488 in the financial year 2014/15 to £4.9m in 2018/19. The figures exclude legal expenses that may have formed part of the overall settlement.

An analysis over the last five calendar years shows that Scotland's police force has paid out £11.68m as a result of 1680 claims.  The figures relate to all claims handled by Police Scotland's legal services department.

Scottish Labour says the new figures show policing in Scotland is in 'disarray' and that 'things need to change.'

In August it emerged that Police Scotland, which was then facing a £41.6m deficit warned of a threat over legal costs and compensation payouts after up to £40m of claims associated with the failed Rangers fraud investigation emerged.

READ MORE: Police Scotland reveal legal costs fears after £40m Rangers case claims

The claims are in connection with their investigation into Craig Whyte's purchase of Rangers in 2011 and the Charles Green-fronted assets purchase the following year.

HeraldScotland:

A chart drawn up for a report by Police Scotland chief financial officer James Gray in August showed “legal costs and liability claims” were the biggest risk to its overstretched budget.

The report talked of "material threats include unbudgeted legal costs yet to be quantified".

Mr Whitehouse and colleague Paul Clark, who was also a former Rangers administrator from Duff and Phelps were among those facing criminal proceedings in the wake of the Rangers buyouts before a judge dismissed the charges.

They both won the right to pursue Scotland's top law officer Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC in October for a combined £15m after a landmark ruling from senior judges.

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh the judges ruled the Lord Advocate was not immune from civil damages claims.

Mr Whitehouse, of Cheshire, brought a damages claim seeking £9m against the Lord Advocate and former Police Scotland chief constable Phil Gormley, with Mr Clark, of Surrey, suing for £5m.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark (above) are seeking compensation for alleged wrongful detention, arrest and prosecution. They were the subject of an abortive attempt to prosecute them in the High Court following the takeover of the Ibrox club by Craig Whyte and its subsequent administration and liquidation.

Several charges were dropped by the Crown and the remainder against them were dismissed by judge Lord Bannatyne.

Both men are seeking damages arising out of their treatment by the police and prosecution authorities.

The Crown Office has already paid compensation estimated at £80,000 to former Rangers administrator David Whitehouse over the granting of a restraint order over his assets which Scotland's chief legal officer admitted was "wrongful".

The force is also facing a possible legal claim over the bungled 101 call scandal which led to the death of M9 crash victim Lamara Bell, 25, and her partner John Yuill, 28, four years ago.

HeraldScotland:

John Yuill and Lamara Bell died after an accident involving their Renault Clio, but it took days for police to find them in the wreckage after a missed call.

The father of Mr Yuill, Gordon said in 2018 he wanted accountability over their failure to respond to a message reporting John and partner Lamara Bell’s wrecked vehicle.

Craig Whyte, who was the last man standing in the fraud conspiracy case, was acquitted of taking over the club by fraud at the end of a seven-week trial in June, 2017.

Fraud charges were previously dropped against Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark, Charles Green, solicitor Gary Withey, Duff and Phelps managing director David Grier,  as well as ex-Rangers director Imran Ahmad.

Duff and Phelps legal representatives Holman Fenwick Willan were awarded £500,000 costs in 2016 after police and prosecutors were found by the High Court in London to have "abused state powers" by carrying out an illegal raid and seizing privileged documents in connection with the failed Rangers fraud case.

READ MORE: Call for government review after judges say prosecutors "abused state power" over Rangers fraud case raid

It emerged in 2017, that compensation payouts had reached record levels when in 2015-16 the force paid out £1.27m in damages as a result of 516 claims, up from almost £1.17m the previous year and just under £1m in 2013/14.

When concerns about the level of compensation payments were raised then, Police Scotland said that they were a "tiny percentage " of their £1.1bn annual budget.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Despite constraints on Scotland’s public services through a decade of UK austerity, we are protecting Police Scotland’s annual budget in real terms in every year of the current Parliament, and since 2016-17 the budget for policing has increased by more than £80 million, bringing it to £1.2 billion for 2019-20.

"In addition, we continue to press the UK Government for a refund of the £125 million paid by Police Scotland in VAT between 2013 and 2018."

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "Police Scotland is the second largest police service in the UK and covers a third of its landmass.

"Our 23,000 officers and staff often work in challenging circumstances, but always with the aim of improving the lives of the public.

"Any compensation payment is dealt with on a case by case basis and with a view to securing best value for the public purse."