POLICE Scotland hit back yesterday at claims of a secret plan to axe almost 60 stations across the country.

Tory Oliver Mundell, who sits on Holyrood’s Justice Committee, accused the single force of “jumping the gun” after a review of buildings in 58 locations was uncovered in a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.

This includes Carnoustie in Angus, Fife fishing village Anstruther, Borders town Hawick, Oban in Argyll, and Renfrewshire village Lochwinnoch.

Larger towns including Gourock in Inverclyde and Hamilton in South Lanarkshire are also listed, along with police stations in Ayr, Leith and Edinburgh High Street.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Mundell called the list a “betrayal of what local policing is all about” and suggested senior figures had already decided on widespread cuts.

However, Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie denied this and said the review aimed to root out premises that were unfit for use or did not serve the needs of local communities.

He said: “Police Scotland needs buildings which are modern, flexible and fit for future policing across the wide range of communities we serve.

“The existing estate has evolved over the course of the last 100 years and in some cases it no longer fits the demands of 2016 or the needs of communities. It makes little sense to maintain old and expensive buildings when smaller, more collaborative options may be available.”

Speaking at the SNP conference last month, Scottish Police Federation general secretary Calum Steele spoke out about the “crumbling” police estate.

Yesterday Gordon Crossan, president of the Association of the Scottish Police Superintendents, said some facilities were in a “shocking state” and “already obsolete”.

He went on: “They’re expensive to run, they’ve limited facilities, so we’re reviewing that to see what could provide a better service for the public for the money that they give us to deliver policing.”

An estate strategy published by Police Scotland last year revealed plans to reduce floor space by up to 25 per cent, saving up to £18 million a year and generating up to £34 million through the sale of properties.

More than 40 of the 397 sites under police control have been declared surplus to requirements since 2013.

However, new sharing arrangements have been put in place in several locations, with police operating from the same premises as ambulance and fire services in Tomintoul.

A similar deal sees police share buildings with Fife Council in both Cupar and Cowdenbeath, something that may be replicated in other areas.

Police Scotland says some of the listed facilities are too large, while others are too small or in the wrong location, and the review process is set to go on for around five years.

Cowie said the strategy “sets out a framework which has the service to local communities at its heart, with a visible and accessible policing service which works effectively with local partners as the drivers for any future change”.

He went on: “This is about enhancing the service we deliver – not doing less. Having buildings across Scotland from which we can operate more effectively will ensure police officers are available in the right time and the right place while continuing to deliver a quality service to local communities.”

The Scottish Government said operational matters were for Police Scotland to decide, but added that it wanted to “see the community focus of policing further strengthened”.

Meanwhile, Greens justice spokesperson John Finnie, a former police officer, has written to the Chief Constable with his concerns.

He said: “To see five stations in Argyll under threat suggests we could have no police presence on the west coast at all, and it’s simply bizarre to think communities the size of Ayr and Leith could have no police station.

“While there is much to be said for co-location of public services, we must prevent withdrawal from communities.”