Police Scotland faces losing its most senior figures over the coming months amid a retirement “boom” for officers at all levels.
Concerns have been raised in the latest edition of 1919 Magazine, published on Tuesday.
A Scottish Police Authority (SPA) memo said the body is “anticipating further senior officers may retire in the coming months”, while a letter from police chiefs to MSPs warned of officers quitting early because of pension changes.
Jamie Greene, justice spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, told the magazine that police officers are “overworked and overstretched”.
He said: “This memo confirms what we already knew; the SNP Government are presiding over a brain drain of senior officers departing Police Scotland.
“It is not just senior police officers who are leaving the force. Overall officer numbers are at their lowest level in Police Scotland’s history and the situation will only get worse with the SNP’s cuts to the policing budget, which break their own 2021 manifesto promise.
“Our officers are overworked and overstretched and ultimately many have left the force as a result of stress related to their job, which is an extremely sad situation to have reached.”
Justice Secretary Keith Brown told the magazine that the problem is down to budget restraints stemming from Westminster.
Mr Brown said: “The idea that the Conservatives want more cash for the police is like a bad joke, given that they denied the police a pay rise in England and Wales last year – meaning no consequential funding in Scotland.
“They have also cut the Scottish Government’s budget by over 5%, allowed rampant inflation to eat away at everyone’s living standards, and now want to cut public services even further to give tax cuts to those earning more than £150,000 per year.”
It comes after the confirmation of two significant departures from the force.
Assistant Chief Constable Kenny MacDonald will retire in November, while Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr is to take up the role of chief constable for Devon and Cornwall Police next year.
Of the 11 remaining senior officers on the force, more than half have either served for 30 years or are approaching the milestone.
Deputy Chief Officer David Page has written to the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee outlining the impact of departures.
He said 1,377 officers of all ranks have been “affected by the recent pension changes and could leave earlier than would otherwise have been the case”.
Of those who have left the force in the past year, 87% said in exit interviews that they were retiring.
Mr Page warned: “We are continuing to see the impact of fewer officers across a range of operational areas, including our responsiveness to calls from the public.
“Sustained investment is required to ensure Police Scotland has the capacity and capability to meet increasing demand.”