THE number of Special Constables in Scotland has more than halved since 2013, new research shows.

More than 750 officers have been lost in the last five years – with plummeting figures illustrating a failure to recruit replacements.

Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show 251 were recruited in 2013, compared to just 85 last year.

Maurice Corry, the party’s community safety spokesman, called on the Scottish Government to urgently address the decline.

He said: “Special Constables make an important contribution to the policing of our streets, deterring crime and interacting with communities.

“The SNP has presided over years of declining numbers of Special Constables without addressing it in any meaningful way.

“I am extremely concerned about this massive drop in numbers of Special Constables given their importance and the effect this is having on Police Scotland capability.

“The SNP must explain why it has let this happen, if it is by design or just sheer incompetence.

“The SNP must address this decline quickly and ensure that the policing capability in Scotland is not compromised in any way.”

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur described the figures as “yet another headache for police officers”.

He added: “They have already been pulled away from frontline duties to undertake work previously done by skilled staff, due to the loss of thousands of civilian staff since 2013.

“SNP ministers must acknowledge the consequences of their botched centralisation policy and revisit recruitment and retention plans to ensure the force is sufficiently staffed.”

Special Constables are often Police Scotland's most visible presence, patrolling streets and interacting with communities.