SCOTLAND’S rank-and-file police body has said “monopoly money” has been squandered on senior staff.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) lashed out after an public finance watchdog criticised the £344,000 cost of hiring three temporary Police Scotland executives for just a few months.

The Auditor General found nearly £50,000 in relocation expenses had been paid to a deputy chief constable years after she moved to Scotland to take up her post.

A spokesman for the SPF – which has been warning of the effects of austerity on policing – said: “By any measure the spending of over £300,000 on three temporary staff for a matter of months work can only be described as profligacy of the highest order".

“It is beyond belief that at a time the police service is under the greatest financial stress in living memory that public funds have been used like Monopoly money by people getting paid a fortune, paying a fortune to consultants so that they in turn can make fortunes.

“It seems the only people to suffer in these times of austerity are hard working police officers and the wider public. “ The Auditor General, Caroline Gardner, focused on a series of decisions taken by the former chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the main civilian watchdog for the national force.

Ms Gardner singled out a decision to appoint three temporary senior staff – at a cost of more than £344,000 – as one that “did not demonstrate value for money in the use of public funds”.

She also criticised the authorisation two relocation expenses payments totalling £67,000 for a deputy chief constable, Rose Fitzpatrick, as well as paying the same officer’s £53,000 personal tax liability for 2016/17.

She said: “Relocation payments of this magnitude do not represent a good use of public money”. The SPA failed to properly disclose these payments, which were recorded as childcare vouchers.

Ms Gardner said: “Our audit identified a number of instances of poor governance and poor use of public money. This is unacceptable.”

Officers who relocate are entitled to claim expenses related to this, under standard nationally negotiated terms. Ms Fitzpatrick, the SPA stressed, had acted in “good faith” and was entitled to have taxation on these expenses met by the police. The Herald understands this includes stamp duty.

The SPA acknowledged relocation costs may have to be reviewed. It said: “We accept that this is an area where more can be done to ensure we achieve best value.

“As a result, the SPA has initiated discussions with the staff associations through official channels with a view to agreeing guidance that ensures officers are reimbursed for expenses reasonably incurred while also demonstrating efficient use of taxpayers money.

Police sources said they had been made aware of discussions on relocation expenses late on Friday.

Ms Gardner, meanwhile, suggested some progress in the overall financial picture for the SPA, which oversees all police spending.

SPA started 2017/18 with a forecast deficit of £47.2 million and expects deficits of £35.6 million in 2018/19 and £15.9 million in 2019/20. It has replaced both its chairman and chief executive.