The man chosen to lead Scotland's new single police force has said the merger could mean the loss of up to 3,000 jobs.

Stephen House, 54, who is the current chief constable of Strathclyde Police, also said being offered the top job is the "pinnacle" of his career.

Speaking at the Scottish Police College in Tulliallan, which will be the interim headquarters for the Police Service of Scotland when it comes into force in April next year, he said there could be "many, many hundreds" of support staff jobs lost as the country's eight forces are merged and agreed with "up to 3,000" as a potential figure.

"It's difficult to be precise at this moment in time, because calculations are still being made and it depends on a lot of different factors," he said.

"I would stress that the plan and the expectation is that much of this will happen through voluntary redundancies and early retirement packages.

"The Government has said, and I think it's quite right, that we're not keen on the idea of compulsory redundancies, so we would be looking to identify jobs where there was some duplication, where we didn't need to do that work any more, and either redeploy those staff into other jobs or see if they wanted to take a voluntary redundancy package or early retirement.

"So, it's something that will be done in a co-operative and compliant way, working with the unions representing the workers."

He will be paid a salary of £208,000 when he takes up the new post this autumn but Mr House said he is "worth it".

He added: "I do believe I'm worth it. Time will tell, but that £208,000 wasn't decided by myself.

"It was decided by a fairly precise procedure of what other people are paid in similar-sized organisations. It's probably at par with that level for the size of the organisation."

Mr House has headed Strathclyde Police since 2007 and previously held senior roles with the Metropolitan Police. He spent the early part of his career at Sussex Police and has served with Northamptonshire, West Yorkshire and Staffordshire forces.

He was appointed deputy assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police in December 2001 and five years later took on the role of assistant commissioner with a responsibility for homicide, gun crime and fraud.

Mr House said local policing will not suffer as a result of the national force and compared it to Strathclyde, which serves more than half of Scotland's population, policing remote areas and islands including Arran and Mull.

"I think there is a popular concern and sensitivity amongst some quarters that coming from a force like Strathclyde, and immediately before that the Metropolitan Police, I'm a big city chief constable who has no concern or care for policing in local communities outside city areas," he said.

"Let me just try and set the record straight - I've worked in six forces, in fact Police Service of Scotland will be my seventh force - three have been relatively small county forces and much of my policing experience is in those.

"I'd also want to remind people that Strathclyde covers a huge territory and includes some extremely rural areas and a large number of island communities as well.

"The flexibility that we deliver currently in Strathclyde speaks well for the ability of the single police service in Scotland to provide a locally tailored and flexible service which meets the needs of the community, but also takes advantage of the benefits of size and the power that will also bring.

"I don't minimise or in any way trivialise those concerns and I hope my actions over the next few years leading the organisation will prove that I will be a chief constable for the whole of Scotland and not just for parts of Scotland."

The Glasgow-born officer said he was looking forward to visiting all eight forces next week to meet people and gather their ideas to take the new force forward.

Vic Emery, who was recently chosen to head the new Scottish Police Authority, the body which will oversee the national service, said: "I am confident that we have someone in Stephen House who shares my principles of nurturing a culture of strong performance, continuous improvement and measuring success. Today at Tulliallan, we take the first steps on that shared journey."

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman David McLetchie MSP said: "This comes as no surprise given the warnings about the significant fall in numbers which had previously been intimated.

"Following this announcement I hope the parliament's justice committee will interview Mr House to ascertain how he intends to achieve savings of this magnitude over that period of time."

Scottish Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: "The admission by Stephen House that there will be massive cuts to staff jobs to pay for creating a single police force will be a devastating confirmation to staff of what has been feared for so long.

"Scottish Labour has highlighted the threat to jobs many times over the last six months. In debating the Police and Fire (Reform) Bill in Parliament, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill refused to admit the scale of job cuts he was planning to make. Now the new chief constable has confirmed 3000 jobs are to go, before he has even started work.

"The SNP's hidden agenda has been cruelly exposed. Cutting thousands of civilian jobs will mean thousands of police officers behind desks, managing cells or staffing phones, when they should be out on the streets, tackling crime.

"Three thousand less civilians in Scotland's police service will more than cancel out the benefits of 1,000 police officers, if what communities get is simply backroom bobbies doing civilian jobs."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The SNP promised that police centralisation would protect, not cut, jobs.

"Liberal Democrats warned of the dangers of creating a national police force. Sadly those warnings seem to be turning into reality.

"Civilian staff play an absolutely vital role in the police service. The work they do - as intelligence analysts, custody officers and community wardens - allow our police officers to spend the maximum time possible out on the beat."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We have protected - and will continue to protect - frontline police numbers and the 1,000 extra officers we have delivered have helped reduce crime to a 37-year low, while the fear of crime is also falling.

"We have also given a commitment to no compulsory redundancies among police support staff. However, police reform provides a unique opportunity to protect and improve services, and allow officers to concentrate on continuing to deliver excellent frontline policing to communities across Scotland.

"The new service will eliminate duplication by doing things differently and working more effectively and efficiently, saving £1.7 billion over 15 years.

"Administrative support services - including HR, finance and procurement - are currently duplicated across eight forces and cost over £40 million per year.

"These can be significantly streamlined to support a single service, a single chief constable and one senior management team. Police staff play a critical role in the success of Scottish policing - and supporting the delivery of crucial frontline services - and will continue to do so in the future. There will be fewer staff at the end of the reform journey than there are now.

"Our aim is to reduce administrative costs through staff leaving and not being replaced and voluntary redundancy."