Graham Power, Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, which is based in Edinburgh, has asked for the support of the Commission for Racial Equality, which is considering his case.
Mr Power, who has been with his present force since 1991, failed to be short-listed for the post of chief constable of Northern Constabulary, which covers the Highlands. The job went to Bill Robertson, a Scot, who was previously Deputy Chief Constable at Cleveland.
After Mr Power, 49, was turned down he contacted the authorities at Northern to find out the reasons for his rejection, but was given no explanation.
"He thought he was an extremely strong candidate and can only think that the reason he was turned down was because he is not a Scot," a police source said.
About three weeks ago Mr Power, a Yorkshireman, contacted the CRE and asked it to back his case. The commission is expected to decide whether to support him next week. If it believes he has been discriminated against because of his "race" he will receive legal assistance, including the services of a barrister, if the case goes to an industrial tribunal or court.
The CRE has backed at least one similar case in the past. About two years ago it unsuccessfully supported an English police officer who claimed he had been discriminated against in a failed attempt to join a Scottish force.
Mr Power, who worked in the North Yorkshire force before moving north, refused to comment yesterday.
Chris Muyant, the commission's spokesman, said: "He has made a formal application to the Commission for Racial Equality for assistance with a case of alleged racial discrimination in seeking employment." Any hearing would be at an industrial tribunal in Scotland.
A spokeswoman for Northern Constabulary said the police board rejected any allegations of racial discrimination.Reuse content