POLICE Scotland Chief Constable Steve House and members of the command team visited offices across the country as the new force got under way.

The national body replaced the eight regional forces and is now the second largest force in the UK with 17,436 officers, 6168 police staff and 1404 special constables. Only the Metropolitan Police has more staff.

Mr House, who was well known for joining officers on the beat when he was Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, said: "Police Scotland is up-and-running and is now wholly responsible for the delivery of policing to our communities, from local response to tackling the highest tiers of criminality.

"We will do this in a way that is very visible, accessible and which truly connects with public priorities, tackling threat, risk and harm where it arises.

"Scotland has a proud history of policing. Police Scotland will take that into a new era."

Regional fire brigades were also merged into the new national Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as part of a cost-saving drive by the Scottish Government.

Ministers say it should save £1.4bn over 15 years.

Last week the budget was set by the Scottish Police Authority for policing, with 90% of the near-£1.1bn being allocated to Police Scotland and the Chief Constable.

Mr House added: "The budget for policing allows us to focus on how we best deliver against our priorities for keeping people safe.

"We will work to improve on our performance, maintaining record low crime levels whilst driving change in the new service.

"Our priorities will be addressing the very local concerns at the same time as national priorities.

"This is an exciting time for policing in Scotland.

"As the second biggest policing organisation in the United Kingdom, the service has a unique opportunity to become truly world-class."

caroline.wilson@ eveningtimes.co.uk