SCOTLAND'S top council official has accused the Government of allowing a "catastrophically bad" turf war to blight the merger of the country's police forces.

Rory Mair, chief executive of council umbrella group Cosla, whose members currently fund half of police costs, said ministers had let a power struggle develop between the two men at the heart of the change.

The new Police Service of Scotland goes live in April under the command of chief constable Stephen House as part of reforms designed to save £1.7 billion over 15 years.

However, the merger has been overshadowed by feuding between House and Vic Emery, chairman of his civilian watchdog, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA). They were at loggerheads for months over who should be responsible for issues such as finance and human resources.

In November, House told MSPs of his shock at learning the SPA might control police support staff, calling it a "gobsmacking major problem".

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill intervened last month and urged the two sides to share human resources. The result is two HR directors, despite the merger being intended to cut duplication.

Mair said: "The shenanigans between Mr House and Mr Emery are catastrophically bad. That just should not be allowed to happen."

He said MacAskill had effectively stepped out of the picture, adding: "It's an abdication of responsibility."

He agreed that House and Emery appeared to have smoothed things over, but added: "It's smoothed over until they fall out next time."

Holyrood's Justice Committee has taken the unusual step of forming a subcommittee to monitor the reforms.

Committee member Graeme Pearson, former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and a Labour MSP said there was still a "silent fume" between the two camps.

He added: "What's happening just now is an embarrassment."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "These claims are wrong. We continue to work very closely with the SPA and Police Scotland on a daily basis."