The role of special constable in Scotland is being allowed to “wither away”, it has been claimed.
It comes as new figures indicate their numbers are down to less than a third of what they were before Police Scotland was centralised.
According to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, there were 453 special constables in September 2021 – almost a thousand fewer than the 1394 volunteering in 2014.
The part-time, voluntary role assists the regular police force but their numbers have dwindled since the centralisation of Police Scotland.
Since Scotland’s eight regional police forces were merged into a single force in 2013, the number of special constables has decreased by 67.5%.
Both the number of special constables sworn in, and those actually deployed, have declined in all but one year since the amalgamation according to the figures.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have warned of the pressures on staff, with the number of special constables falling.
The party’s justice spokesperson, Liam McArthur, said it is clear that staff are struggling.
“Special constables perform a valuable role and enhance the police’s presence in communities across Scotland,” McArthur explained.
“It’s a shame to see a role with a proud history being allowed to wither away.
“We all know the pressures on police officers and staff, who we expect to step up in our moment of need.
“It is also clear from the most recent staff survey that they are struggling with exhaustion, stress and mental health problems.”
McArthur called on the SNP to “repair the damage” done by its centralisation of Police Scotland.
He said: “That makes it all the more important therefore to ensure they have the support they need.
“The SNP Government must now repair the damage done by its botched centralisation.
“That includes protecting the future of the special constabulary and giving officers and staff the resources that they need to do their jobs.”