Chief Constable David Strang revealed he would apply for the job, which was advertised for the first time yesterday, amid a row over the huge salary for the post.
Mr Strang, who currently earns £142,000 and is entitled to a 15 per cent bonus which he does not claim, has led the Lothian force since 2007, although the front-runner to head up the new single force is still viewed as Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House.
The eight regional police forces are being merged into one under a government push to save cash. The single force is due to be up and running from April next year. Scottish ministers want to see the new chief constable appointed in October.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the job was “one of the most demanding and high-profile policing posts in the UK” and justified the huge salary. But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Many will find the eye-watering £208k salary difficult to stomach. The SNP government like to think it is against high public sector pay, but time and time again we see instances like this.
“But this isn’t the only cost. Eight locally accountable, locally visible chief constables are being replaced by one. I don’t understand how the SNP feel they can justify this reduction in service as value for money.
“We’ve complained the centralisation of the police is a dangerous step that puts too much power in the hands of one person. Now there’s too much money in the hands of one person.”
The new chief constable will take charge of what will be the second largest force in the UK, with more than 17,000 officers.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: “David Strang has announced he is applying for the post of Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland.”
Born in Glasgow, Mr Strang joined the Metropolitan Police in 1980, rising through the ranks to become divisional commander of Wembley Division.
In 2001 he was appointed Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.
The successful candidate is set to be appointed through a recruitment panel, headed by the chair of the Scottish Police Authority and featuring senior public figures.
Mr MacAskill said: “The new chief constable will be a role model for the values of the police service, providing inspirational leadership, determining the future shape of policing as part of an ambitious programme of public service reform across Scotland.”
Mr House remains the favourite to take the new top police job, although Grampian chief Colin McKerracher, who previously expressed concerns about a national force, has also confirmed an interest in the post.
The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and Scottish Police Services Authority will also come under the umbrella of the national force. The new operation will be based at the Scottish Police College in Tulliallan, in Fife.