POLICE Scotland has spent nearly £20m paying off staff over a period of the past six years.
New data shows that at least 36 workers were given golden handshakes of more than £100,000 since 2015.
Some £2.5m was handed over to staff taking voluntary redundancy or early retirement in the past two years alone.
Public spending watchdogs Audit Scotland warned in December that the force was “financially unsustainable” stating that there was a £26.6million overspend in 2019-20.
It warned that officer cuts were needed to curb rising costs at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), which funds Police Scotland and controls its governance.
More than 85 per cent of the Scottish police budget is spent on officer and staff wages.
And earlier this year Chief Constable Iain Livingstone warned that the number of police officers in Scotland could be cut next year after the Scottish government agreed a deal to increase police spending by £60m in 2020-21.
Mr Livingstone told MSPs the force would still have a deficit to contend with in the upcoming financial year despite the extra money.
But he said cutting numbers this year would be “imprudent” given the “unprecedented demand” facing the force including involvement in Glasgow’s hosting of the COP26 climate change summit in November.
Police Scotland had at that point 17,234 officers and a draft plan to work out how many officers the force will need in the future.
The new payout figures also showed that between 2015 and 2019 some £17.2m went to 385 staff, with five getting more than £200,000 A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “The creation of a national service has helped maintain responsive and visible local policing.
“There is a cost to transforming our services. But policing returns significant savings to the public purse.”
In May it emerged that the taxpayer faced a bill of over £110m for the malicious prosecutions scandal over the failed Rangers fraud case.
The ‘abuse of power’ scandal has already seen millions of taxpayer-funded damages payouts to those wrongly prosecuted by the Crown Office and Police Scotland.
Administrators David Whitehouse and Paul Clark of finance firm Duff and Phelps were the first to receive sums, having settled out of court in December to the tune of more than £24m.
Mr Whitehouse, Mr Clark and five others were subjected to detention and criminal proceedings in relation to fraud allegations in the wake of Craig Whyte’s disastrous purchase of Rangers from Sir David Murray for £1 in May 2011 and its subsequent sale before a judge dismissed all charges.
The fraud case arose after the club under Mr Whyte went into administration nine months after he bought it, with debts soaring over £100m, while the team ended up relegated to the bottom rung of the Scottish football pyramid.