With Police Scotland disputing the idea that individual officers have to meet targets for detecting and cutting crime, it is important to fall back on the facts.

The details revealed by the Herald today are instructive. Some 20,000 more drivers were reported for road traffic offences between April and July this year than during the same spell last year.

This includes more than 5000 people reported for failing to wear a seatbelt, as well as others stopped for speeding, using a mobile phone while driving and numerous other offences.

The Chief Constable of the new police force, Sir Stephen House, has not made any secret of the fact that he wants to prioritise improving road safety. We know Police Scotland has introduced key performance indicators (KPIs) relating to the policing of road traffic offences.

In this context, the question of whether or not these are 'targets' becomes a matter of semantics.

There are few people who would object to reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. But the link between these figures - which have gone down - and the policing effort is far from proven.

There is a clear public interest in cracking down on speeding on dangerous roads, driving without insurance and other traffic crime.

However, public support could be undermined if police are seen to be stopping and reporting drivers simply to meet targets.

Police Scotland needs to retain public confidence and may not do so if this seems to be a box-ticking exercise.

The key to this is openness. When the single force was set up the argument was that the eight existing forces were not accountable enough.

One national force, it was argued, would not just save on costs, but would also improve accountability. This has not transpired, at least on the evidence of a refusal by Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to release details of the KPIs being used by the new force. As we reported this week, both bodies rejected our Freedom of Information request on the topic.

Yet the huge leap in road traffic offences reported is an excellent example of a situation in which the national police force could be giving the public a much clearer explanation of the policy that is being pursued.

These statistics should be explored further, to explain where drivers are being stopped, what for and why.

Any evidence that the increased pressure to detect road traffic offences really is linked with a reduction in injuries and deaths would also be welcome.

The fact that Scotland's roads are among the safest in Europe does not mean there is not room for improvement. Those who drive dangerously or break road traffic laws should face the consequences.

But if the public perceive that pro-active policing is being used to improve detection rates or satisfy the demands of the Police Scotland hierarchy, rather than truly targeting road safety, the longer-term effect could be damaging.

Transparency is the best way to prevent this risk.