A POLICE union official sparked a furious row with force chiefs after claiming officers lack protection to deal with a terror attack.
Calum Steele, General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, made comments on social media which prompted two high-ranking officers to slam his remarks.
Mr Steele, a vocal supporter of arming officers, took to Twitter to post: “Cop – any chance of some proper personal protective equipment? Chief – no but I’ll say some kind words at your funeral.”
In a further dig, Mr Steele dubbed Scottish cops as “lions led by lambs”.
However, the comments enraged two of Scotland’s most senior cops, Chief Superintendent Gary Ritchie, divisional commander of Dumfries & Galloway, and Superintendent Stewart Carle, Police Scotland’s deputy head of road policing.
Superintendent Carle even challenged Steele to put his uniform on and go back on the beat – and called his lions led by donkeys remark “crass”.
In an unusually frank exchange of views among Police Scotland top brass, Chief Superintendent Ritchie fired back: “Your base representation here does a disservice to an important issue and is insulting to your colleagues of ALL ranks.”
Superintendent Carle added: “Lions led by donkeys is utterly crass, Calum. Are you donning your uniform & PPE next weekend? I’ll find a seat in a van for you.”
But Mr Steele wrote back: “Happy to do so if you can a) answer me what you expect an unarmed officer to do so when faced with terrorist incident & b) get me the kit.”
Last night there were fears the row pointed towards increasingly strained relations between senior officers and cops on the beat.
Scottish Conservative community safety spokesman Oliver Mundell said: “This is not reassuring the public during a time in which issues within Police Scotland are so evident.
“Differing opinions are part and parcel of most jobs, however, you can’t help but feel it would be far more professional if the individuals found another avenue to voice these disagreements instead of doing it in such a public manner.
“People are growing ever frustrated at Police Scotland’s growing internal conflict.
“It needs to instead focus on providing a stronger police service.”
The row – which erupted in the aftermath of the London terror attacks – is especially unusual as Police Scotland top brass rarely speak out of turn, or voice their opinions on social media.
When contacted by The Sunday Post, Mr Steele played down the heated exchange.
“As a platform, Twitter doesn’t lend itself to nuanced debate,” he said.
There are concerns cuts have left cops in the UK exposed to the increased terror threat.
And Police Scotland face having to balance its books in coming years.
Earlier this year, the force announced it would cut officer numbers by 400 as part of its 10-year policing plan.
Chief Constable Phil Gormley said recruitment levels would remain unchanged in the current year, but would begin to slow between 2018-20.
Police Scotland acknowledged the online row, saying people have “always had differing professional points of view”. “Police Scotland enjoys a regular and ongoing dialogue with the leadership of the Scottish Police Federation,” the force spokeswoman added.