Six of the best - key principles for Scotland's future policing unveiled
Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson, of Strathclyde, has been tasked with making sure merging forces does not lead to a poorer policing.
He has pinpointed community ?services, fighting crime, counter-terrorism, road safety, specialist operations, and the work of support staff, as the pillars on which the new force will be built.
"This will be the most comprehensive picture of policing in Scotland that has ever been done," Mr Richardson said.
"The important message is that policing in Scotland is not broken, far from it. We're delivering an excellent service to communities.
"We have to ensure, as we move forward, that whatever is established, if we do it differently - we do it better."
Mr Richardson was given the job by the National Policing Board, which is chaired by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, after a report leaked to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper revealed civil servants estimated moving to a single force would save almost 200 million a year.
Police chiefs reacted angrily to those predictions. Chief Constable David Strang, of Lothian and Borders, said such a saving would "reduce police officers by several thousand".
Mr Richardson will report on 21 March, and a three-month public consultation, on how many forces Scotland should have, should begin this month.
Labour has already backed one force, while Mr MacAskill is understood to have told Chief Constable Pat Shearer, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpos), that he supports a single structure, leading many to believe the principle has already been agreed.
Mr Richardson was critical of work completed so far by the policing board's Sustainable Policing Project, which made the 200m saving projection.
"There tended to be a focus on the financial side and the statistical side," he said.
"Part of the reason I got involved in this debate is because everyone was starting with answers, that's the wrong way round."
Several serving officers and a civilian member of staff, each with substantial experience in the six themes highlighted, have been seconded to Mr Richardson and will support him by providing expert analysis.
Assistant Chief Constable Cliff Anderson, general secretary of Acpos, said: "Acpos supports the ongoing reform agenda which seeks to maintain high standards of policing in local communities in the face of impending budget cuts.
"DCC Neil Richardson is providing the Sustainable Policing Project with considerable policing knowledge and expertise."A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Protecting frontline policing services in the face of an unprecedented cut to Scotland's budget will not be possible by sticking to the status quo.
"We will launch a consultation on reform later this month.
"Allied to the consultation, the Scottish Government has asked DCC Neil Richardson to lead the Sustainable Policing project examining in detail the three options put forward for reform."
The key principles:
• Community policing
• Fighting crime
• Road safety
• Specialist operations
• The work of support staff