Private firms should be allowed to take on roles which would prevent police officers being "distracted" from front-line duties, it has been claimed.
More officers would be freed up for front-line duties
The call has come from Sir Roy Cameron, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC).
Speaking after the publication of his annual report, he said the private sector could take over "administrative" roles being carried out by officers.
His comments were welcomed by Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry.
However, First Minister Jack McConnell said the Scottish Executive had "no plans at all" to contract out police work.
Sir Roy called for the private sector to be utilised to carry out tasks such as court duties and pursuing fine defaulters.
"Personally and professionally I don't see why the police domain cannot be contracted out to other bodies who can quite competently and
professionally deal with that issue," he said.
"Within the police domain I see absolutely no difficulty with that.
"I think the role of policing has to be channelled into those areas where it makes a genuine difference for the public."
He added: "The police should not be distracted by any job that could be effectively done by other people."
Mr Henry said the comments were "in tune" with the Scottish Executive's thinking.
"Police who should be on the front line tackling crime are carrying out administrative work, escort work and supervision work that could easily be done by others.
"It is our intention to get the police freed up to tackle crime on the front line," he said.
But Mr McConnell, speaking at First Ministers Questions, said it was not a policy being pursued at present.
"The privatisation of custodial provision in police stations and that sort of environment, which I believe may have been covered by the reference that the chief inspector made, is not currently the policy of the partnership parties or of this government," he said.
In his report, Sir Roy - who retires in the new year - said there was much that was positive in Scottish policing.
However, he also identified areas for further development.
He said there were growing demands relating to areas such as terrorism, computer crime and victim support.
"The Scottish Police Service is reaching a defining point in terms of its capacity to meet the emerging and foreseeable needs of the 21st
century," he said.
"It is therefore essential that opportunities for change are expedited to promote consistency of service, to reduce duplication between forces, and to translate operational benefits to the public."
Sir Roy's report also showed a small reduction in recorded crime and highlighted a record detection rate of 46%.