Scotland's new chief constable must be given operational independence to run the country's single police force including its backroom functions, senior officers have said.
Stephen House, who will lead the force when it becomes operational in April, must not become "subservient" to the chair of watchdog the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), said the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps).
Under legislation passed by Holyrood to establish the single force and the SPA, the chief constable was given statutory responsibility for the direction and control of the service. The SPA was set up to hold the chief constable to account and is itself accountable to Scottish ministers.
But a letter sent to MSPs by Vic Emery, appointed chair of the SPA earlier this year, has raised concerns about who will manage services such as IT, human resources and finance.
"What we have indicated in our early discussions with the chief constable is that the conventional arrangements where all support functions and staff are automatically within the direction of the chief constable require to be considered differently," he said.
Responding to the letter, Chief Superintendent David O'Connor, Asps president, said: "We do expect the chief constable to give due regard to any recommendations or guidance issued by the SPA on the policing of Scotland but we cannot support a position where we might see a chief constable being subservient to the chair of the Scottish Police Authority.
"We cannot support a position where the Scottish Police Authority may seek to give direction to the chief constable in relation to any matter relating to operational policing as this would fundamentally erode police operational independence with all the dangers that this brings to a democratic society.
"Asps are also seriously concerned at the potential for increased bureaucracy, duplication of functions and increased costs in relation to staffing the SPA, in addition to the fundamental issue of erosion of police operational independence.
"The SPA must be clear about what the strategic priorities are for the police and let the chief constable get on with how this is to be achieved.
"It will undoubtedly take time for the Scottish Police Authority and the chief constable to establish an effective working relationship. It is absolutely essential that the Scottish Police Authority does not enable politicisation of the police, as may be the case in England and Wales through the election of police and crime commissioners."