SCOTLAND'S second most senior police officer Iain Livingstone will take over as chief constable in Phil Gormley's absence - but is due to retire in the autumn.

Mr Livingstone, the deputy chief constable, had been widely seen as Mr Gormley's natural successor but but decided to take retirement earlier than expected, surprising his supporters in the force.

The 50-year-old said in July that it was the “right time” to retire. He has been in the job since 2012 and has served in the police for 25 years.

Mr Livingstone had been tipped to take over from under-fire chief Stephen House when he quit in 2015 but was snubbed in favour of former Met commander Gormley.

HeraldScotland: Phil Gormley

Mr Livingstone served in Edinburgh and West Lothian as a patrol officer and detective before becoming head of CID and assistant chief constable with Lothian and Borders police.

A former Fulbright scholar and a law graduate, he had become a mainstay of Scottish justice beyond policing in recent years, serving as a member of Lord Bonomy's review group on corroboration.

He was not believed to have had a new position to go to when announcing his retirement.

His salary, last listed in February as between £170,000 and £175,000, is higher than that of the chief constables of some of England's biggest forces.

He said in announcing his retirement: "It is now the right time for me to retire from policing and take up new challenges."