Police officer numbers have risen to a record high, according to official figures.
As of March 31 there were 17,436 officers in Scotland, up 173 in the past year. The total includes 16,903 across the eight forces and around 530 on secondment to other bodies such as the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
The figures are published as full-time equivalent positions which takes into account part-time staff covering the comparable workload of one full-time officer.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "I warmly welcome today's statistics showing the highest-ever number of police officers in our communities the length and breadth of Scotland.
"Crime is at a 35-year low. Fear of crime is down. The risk of being a victim of crime in Scotland is falling and is lower than in England and Wales. People are feeling safer in their communities, and these record police numbers prove that this Government is delivering on its commitments to protect police services and deter crime.
"The figures will obviously fluctuate slightly over time but we are protecting police officer posts and investing in our communities when in England and Wales officer numbers are predicted to decrease by 16,000.
"We are proud of our police and the excellent job they do. That's why our plans for a new Police Service of Scotland will ensure that frontline policing is protected and our communities kept safe."
The new national service will merge the eight regional forces, under plans by the Scottish Government.
Officer numbers increased in most regions, the figures show. Strathclyde recorded the largest increase of 157 in a year, taking the total to 8,447 for the first quarter of 2012.
Officer numbers fell by 31 in Grampian and by five in Northern Constabulary.
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