AN audit of jobs in the public sector has found a huge rise in the number of office-based civil servant posts in Scotland but a fall in police officer and firefighter posts.

The analysis of official figures has been carried out by Scottish Labour and comes just days after Deputy First Minister John Swinney outlined the Scottish Government's tax and spending plans for next year.

Mr Swinney announced a raft of headline policies, including the rising of Scottish-controlled benefits in line with inflation (10.1%), increasing the top rate of tax on the highest earners, and a six month pilot scheme scrapping peak time fares on rail travel.

The Deputy First Minister said there was an extra £550 million in the Budget for local government, compared to the commitments made in the Resource Spending Review, which was published in May.

There is also to be complete flexibility in council tax, with no cap placed on what local authorities can seek to raise from their constituents.

But following a meeting to consider the budget on Friday councils hit out on over a "massive real-terms cut in councils' core funding" which they said would lead to "socially harmful cuts" and job losses in the coming year.

In a statement council chiefs said that “most of the supposed £550m additional funding is for existing commitments”, adding: “The £71m of uncommitted funding goes no way towards meeting the identified budget gap in council funding of £612m due to inflation, energy prices, and demand pressures.”

Meanwhile, Labour say public sector employment figures have shown an increase of 3,710 jobs in the devolved civil service compared to 2021. The figure amounts to a 15.8 per cent increase on the previous year.

It is starkly contrasted by other public sector areas, particularly in frontline and emergency services with a dramatic decrease of 2.3 per cent in police and fire services in the same time.

Numbers in the reserved civil service and further education also decreased over this period.

Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Daniel Johnson said: "The SNP’s priorities are completely out of order.

“They have slashed jobs in the police and fire services, leaving the people of Scotland at greater risk of harm.

“Clearly they are more interested in swelling government bureaucracy than protecting Scottish people and the services we hold most dear. The SNP are failing to protect our communities and our key workers.”

During the Budget debate on Thursday Mr Swinney, who is interim finance secretary, was pressed by Labour MSP Michael Marra on a reduction in teacher numbers and the impact of council cuts on further losses.

Mr Marra said: "Our schools in Scotland have lost nearly 100 teachers in the past year, before this real-terms cut to core local government budgets.

"Pay for teachers currently accounts for one third of council net revenue expenditure. What modelling has the Deputy First Minister undertaken on the number of teachers who will be lost as a result of his budget?"

Mr Swinney told Mr Marra that any job losses among teachers was the responsibility of councils as the government did not directly employ teachers.

He said: "The Government does not employ teachers. They are employed by local authorities, but Mr Marra, of course, wants to hold the Government to account for the employment of those teachers.

"I have come to Parliament today to set out a £550 million increase to the budget for local government. That is higher than this year’s budget and is higher than local government could have expected.

"Local government has the opportunity to take forward the employment of teachers and investment in public services, because the Government has delivered a funding settlement that is higher, greater and more emphatic than the arrangements that are in place and than local government could have expected."

Responding to the Budget, Scotland's chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone warned "hard choices" lie ahead for policing finances despite the improved budget allocation.

Funding for the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), which includes Police Scotland, has been set as £1.449 billion for the 2023/24 financial year.

Sir Iain welcomed the improvement after the Scottish Government's spending review outlined earlier this year warned of a flat cash settlement of £1.246 billion for the next five years.

Police chiefs warned significant cuts to vital services and to staff jobs if additional cash was not made available.

A spokesperson for Minister for Social Security Ben MacPherson said: “Much of this increase is related to the establishment of Social Security Scotland, and it speaks volumes that Scottish Labour should attack the recruitment of staff to help deliver vital benefits like the Scottish Child Payment, disability and carer benefits, which are helping lift children and families out of poverty and supporting disabled people to live independent lives.

“With every week that passes – from their pro-Brexit stance to these Tory-like attacks on lifeline social security payments – Labour are becoming utterly indistinguishable from the Tories.”