SCOTLAND's chief constable has warned he will need to adopt "extreme measures" to balance his budget.

Sir Stephen House is facing a funding gap of nearly £11m in the coming financial year - despite dramatic savings already scheduled or achieved.

In a clear signal of problems to come, the country's most senior officer has hinted of politically difficult cuts on the immediate horizon and raged against his force having to pay millions in VAT.

Mr House told his ruling board, the Scottish Police Authority, that the 2015-2016 financial year would be far harder than the first two years of Police Scotland.

He said: "We believe the challenge son the budget are extreme and we ill take extreme measures to balance the budget."

As The Evening Times revealed yesterday, the national force has already found £46.5m of the £57.5m in savings it must make to break even in 2015-2016.

But that means it must find another £10.9m - but has little or no leeway to do so as so much of its budget is already signed off to pay for officers it cannot sack.

Some of the identified savings as marked "amber" or "red" in an SPA budget approved on Tuesday - suggesting there is a risk they will not be met.

They and the unidentified savings involve political risk, he hinted.

Sir Stephen said: "I think these savings are deliverable to get to the £10.9m but it does depend on a number of things.

"We have to start work in an environment that is amenable to significant and quite rapid change.

"Everybody knows we are approaching one election in the UK and in 12 months time we will be on the verge of a second election in Scotland. "And within those two milestones we have to bring about some significant change in an organisation that has already seen significant change. I think that will bring a challenge to the authority and the organisation itself."

Police Scotland is on track to deliver all the savings anticipated when it was created from the country's existing nine services, the eight regional forces and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.

In fact, police finance chiefs on Tuesday revealed savings from cutting duplication and other extra admin costs had already equalled the combined budgets of three of the so-called legacy forces, Dumfries and Galloway, Northern Constabulary and Central Scotland Police.

Sir Stephen said he believed a target of cumulative savings of £1.1bn would be met before the expected deadline of 2026.

However, his finance chief, June Murray, told SPA that the 2015-2016 financial year would involve a "spike" in problems because it would come before all of the savings from IT and other innovations were delivered.

The Scottish Government has provided the police with £70m to smooth over reform. Sir Stephen, however, said this would only go so far because "nearly 40 per cent of the money would go out the door as VAT".

Sir Stephen said: "We are the only UK police force not eligible to recover VAT.

"I'm frankly bewildered that we have to pay VAT as an organisation.

"I do not seek to blame anyone in Scotland in relation to that, it is quite clear the Scottish Government has been working very hard to recover the situation. This seems to me to be an unsupportable situation."

John Foley, SPA chief executive, said the £24m VAT bill - twice the extra cuts the force has to make - was an "unfair burden".

Labour's Justice spokesman, Hugh Henry, said: "Cuts to the police budget put the safety of every Scot at risk, it is as simple as that.

"After years of cuts to civilian staff, and thousands of offers being taken off the street to plug the gap, it is clear that Scotland's police - and public safety - can take no more."

The Scottish Government said how the budget was balanced was a matter for the SPA. Scottish policing remains much better funded than that in England and Wales.