Public can be confident in Police Scotland, says minister
The force has been rocked after two of its senior officers were suspended.
The public can remain confident in Police Scotland, according to the justice secretary.
Michael Matheson defended the national force after it emerged assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins and three other officers were suspended after "a number of criminal and misconduct allegations" were made.
Police Scotland's chief constable, Phil Gormley, has been on special leave since September following allegations of gross misconduct.
Both Mr Gormley and Mr Higgins deny any wrongdoing.
Matheson faced questions at Holyrood after delivering a statement on the state of the nation's police force.
The minister said the force gives "excellent local service to communities that I believe is the match of policing anywhere in the world".
He told MSPs: "I have stated in recent days this is a challenging set of circumstances for the executive team at Police Scotland.
"No one would wish to be in this particular situation with an officer suspended and a chief constable who is presently on extended leave.
"But there is now an investigation into these incidents and we now have to wait for that process to be completed."
Mathson added: "Some commentators have sought to use the recent events to question Police Scotland's performance.
"However, the evidence on this is clear. The latest national statistics show that recorded crime is at a 43-year low and public confidence in the police remains strong.
He stated later: "Operational policing continues and the public can have confidence in the police service."
His words did not temper the criticism from opposition MSPs over his handling of the situation.
Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: "Despite the tireless work of officers and staff on the frontline which I applaud, the public fear the police service is in a critical state and the Cabinet secretary is refusing to admit it."
Labour's Claire Baker also hit out, saying: "Given the past few days this statement looks complacent. The Cabinet secretary must take responsibility for what happens on his watch and there are legitimate concerns."