Police numbers were at a record high in June
The number of police officers in Scotland has fallen in the last quarter, new figures have revealed.
There were a total of 17,217 officers at the end of September, 61 fewer than in the previous three months.
The latest figure is still 691 more than a year ago and 983 more than when the SNP came to power.
The Scottish government announced earlier this year that it had fulfilled its pre-election pledge to recruit 1,000 extra officers.
In June, Scotland had 17,278 officers, up from 16,234 when the SNP came to power in May 2007.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "We are well on track to deliver an increase in police numbers of 1,000 over the lifetime of this parliament, and are well ahead of where our own police force projection study said we would be at this stage.
"With a year and a half to go, this quarter's figure are just 17 officers short of our target for 2011, and the underlying trend is clearly very strongly upwards."
He said there was some fluctuation in officer totals because of the large numbers approaching 30 years' service.
Scottish Labour described the fall in police numbers as "a serious blow" for Mr MacAskill.
Labour's justice spokesman Richard Baker said 70% of new officers were funded by local authorities, sparking concern over funding difficulties.
He said: "These figures show police numbers are declining and have fallen back below the number promised by the SNP at the election.
"Whatever happens over the next few months on police numbers, the predictions from police forces and local authorities are clear - the current funding allocations from the Scottish government will mean that police numbers will not be able to maintained in the long term.
"What is the point of recruiting extra police if they can't be retained?"