Police Scotland have spent £2.8 million hiring vehicles for special events in the last three years, research has found.
The force rented 10,833 vehicles in the last year, up from 6,609 in 2015-16 according to a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
Costing £950,698.22 in 2017/18, the police have defended the spending and argue that short-term hire is cheaper than buying and maintaining the vehicles used for major events.
Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “Police Scotland maintains a fleet of more than 3,500 vehicles, almost all of which are in constant use to keep the people of Scotland safe.
“When operational demands require us to hire additional vehicles to respond to events such as VIP visits and sporting events, we only do so for as long as is necessary. In many cases, the hire costs are met by other organisations or re-charged to event hosts.
“It is almost always cheaper for us to hire vehicles for a short term to meet an operational need than to buy additional vehicles or pay mileage for the use of private vehicles.”
Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur MSP said: “Auditors and staff at every level of the national force have raised concerns about the serious pressures on Police Scotland’s budget.
“The SNP promised that their centralisation of the police would deliver savings. Instead, the national force has consistently recorded deficits in the tens of millions of pounds and this is projected to continue for years to come.
“Clearly there are times when Police Scotland will have specific operational demands that necessitate additional vehicles but it is the SNP Government’s responsibility to ensure that they can afford the kit they need.
“There has been a 64% increase in the number of vehicles the police hire and this warrants an explanation.
“The public would not want to see a police force dependent on short term solutions in place of long term thinking.”
May 2018 saw the highest number of vehicle hires, with 1,372 rented during the month.
Asked about specific events that increased rentals, a Police Scotland spokesman added: “There are a number of planned annual events which result in extra vehicle hires, such as processions, golf, music festivals and other sporting events. Royal visits and other visiting dignitaries also result in extra vehicle hires.
“As hires are booked for all of Police Scotland, a major incident in any area of Scotland could result in more vehicle hires.”
Police Scotland spent £835,341.74 on vehicle hire in 2015-16, £835,341.74, £986,023.90 in 2016-17 and £950,698.22 in the last financial year.