ANGRY about public-sector "fat cats"? You know, those overpaid town hall pen-pushers we keep reading about in the tabloids? The ones enjoying the champagne lifestyles at taxpayers' expense?

It's been open season on the wages of public-sector bosses for years. Everybody, after all, likes a good moan about how much of "our money" that so-and-so in the council or the NHS is raking in.

But recently, as austerity bites, the complaints have got ever shriller. The Daily Mail has started firing its latest shot against the fat cats. This time senior Scottish police officers were in the line of fire.

Deputy chief constables Iain Livingstone and Steve Allen, according to the paper, make the kind of money collected by the spivs they try to lock up.

Mr Allen, the paper said, was on £737,500 a year, three times that of the chief constable of the Metropolitan Police.

Too good to be true? I am afraid so. The man who, among other things, oversaw the security of the Commonwealth Games receives a fraction of this.

Likewise with Mr Livingstone, pictured below, a favourite to be the next Scottish chief constable. He is supposed to earn £632,000; also wrong. A DCC at Police Scotland receives a pretty handsome £169,600, according to the force's website.

What accounts for the discrepancy? The Mail has added "pensions benefits" in to its calculations. And, under strict accountancy rules, changes in the pension pots, less personal contributions, are multiplied by 20 before they are filed in official accounts.

The reality of take-home pay doesn't change because of this; nor does how much they are paid in retirement. It's just accountancy.

Now there really is, in fact, something of a controversy with police pensions. The problem for those criticising "fat cat cops" is that the row isn't that pensions are very good. It is that they aren't as good as they once were.

This affects chiefs as well as troops. In fact, the pensions of chief officers are seen as such poor value for money – they are taxed heavily under new Treasury rules that were aimed at bankers – that some have opted out of the scheme altogether, including the present chief constable.

Of much greater importance are the changes in terms of pensions for rank-and-file officers. A recent staff survey found that one in three were thinking of leaving the force. Of those, nearly half cited pensions.

Most are thought to be the kind of mid-ranking officers who do the heavy-lifting of policing. They're understandably miffed.

Police officers need to tighten their utility belts like the rest of the public sector. And, fortunately, there still plenty of people who want to do the job, even with new terms. Neither Mr Allen nor Mr Livingstone is poor; nor should they be. They do really important jobs.

But the Scotland's real "fat cats" aren't in police HQs or town halls or hospitals. They are in banks and other businesses that hide their income offshore. Let us scrutinise them, not use "fat cat" myths to smear our public services.