SCOTLANDâ€™S eight police forces are to be replaced with a single national authority â€“ putting up to 450 backroom jobs at risk.
The new force, which will be operational from April next year, will save an estimated Â£1.7billion over 15 years.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said yesterday that it was the only way to maintain the present level of policing in the face of Westminster cuts.
He also revealed that Scotlandâ€™s eight fire services willbe replaced by a single body.
Under the plans, which represent the biggest shake-up of policing for a generation, there will be a single chief constable for the whole of Scotland.
The new chief will appoint local commanders, whowill be answerable to each of the countryâ€™s councils.
MacAskill said: â€œThe stark reality is that budget cuts from Westminster will devastate our excellent frontline services if we donâ€™t act now.
â€œWe have devised the strongest possible plans for the future of police and fire services in Scotland which reduce duplication, not the quality of vital services, and deliver estimated efficiency savings.â€
Union leaders warned last night that the Police and Fire Reform Bill threatened the jobs of police support staff, who have already suffered savage cuts in their numbers over the last year.
A UNISON source said: â€œWe have either already lost or are about to lose 450 civilian staff, so perhaps the same number again will be under threat as a result of efficiencies.
â€œBut thatâ€™s a guess. No one has a clue because we donâ€™t know yet how the new single force will operate.â€
Peter Veldon, the unionâ€™s regional organiser for Scottish police staff, added: â€œThe main motivation for a unitary police body appears to befocused on saving money.â€
It has already been claimed that police officers are being pulled from their frontline duties to do the work of civilian workers who have been axed.
Latest figures show there are 17,265 full-time police officers and 7400 support staff in Scotland.
Labour have given the SNP plan their backing. But the ScottishLib Dems claim it will threaten police accountability.
Justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: â€œThis puts our excellent local, responsive policing and our small rural fire stations at risk.â€
The Scottish Police Service will be based at Tulliallan Castle in Fife.
The chief constable will be recruited by a new governing body, the Scottish Police Authority, although ministers will be able to veto their choice.
Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House is viewed as a strong frontrunner for the job. He is a keen supporter of a single force, saying it would save cash and improve policing.
Three separate independent watchdogs will be responsible for policing the new force â€“ Her Majestyâ€™s Inspector of Constabulary, the Auditor General and the Police Complaints Commissioner, who will be renamed the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.
The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents vowed to make the plan work.
The Scottish Police Federation, who represent rank and file officers,originally opposed it. But yesterday they also gave their backing.
A spokesman said: â€œThe Bill offers an excellent opportunity for the police service to improve.â€
Similar reforms will create a Scotland-wide fire and rescue service.
A Chief Officer will run the service, guided by a board of up to 11 members.
There will be similar obligations on local fire chiefs to consult with councils.
Single Scottish police force could mean redundancy for 450 backroom staff