Scotland politics

MSPs 'do not have confidence' in police board chief

Andrew Flanagan Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Flanagan previously told the committee that "now is not the time" for a change of leadership

MSPs "do not have confidence" in the leadership of Scottish Police Authority chairman Andrew Flanagan.

The SPA chief has come under fire at a series of Holyrood inquiries about governance and transparency.

The justice sub-committee on policing has now penned a letter calling Mr Flanagan's evidence "inadequate" and said issues remain "unresolved".

Mr Flanagan said he would consider the report "very carefully", having previously refused to quit.

He told the committee that "now is not the time" for a change of leadership during its last meeting on 18 May.

The SPA board also met on Thursday, and agreed to appoint a new deputy chair and to hold meetings in public "wherever possible".

Holyrood's public audit committee and police watchdog Derek Penman have both been conducting inquiries into transparency at the SPA, which is the public body holding Police Scotland to account.

This follows a row over board meetings being held behind closed doors, which led to board member Moi Ali quitting amid claims of "bullying" and concerns over Mr Flanagan's failure to circulate a critical letter about this from Mr Penman around the board.

Image caption MSPs said Mr Flanagan had "acted inappropriately" over the exit of Moi Ali from the SPA board

The public audit committee wrote a highly critical letter to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, voicing "very serious concerns" about Mr Flanagan's conduct, saying he appeared to have "behaved inappropriately" in relation to Ms Ali's exit from the board.

The justice sub-committee on policing has now followed up with a letter of its own, saying that a meeting with Mr Flanagan "did not reassure" them "that he has a real belief and understanding that the actions that he took...were wrong."

It also said that "the sub-committee does not have confidence that the current chair is the best person to lead the board".

Sub-committee convener Mary Fee said: "Mr Flanagan's testimony to the Sub-Committee was frankly inadequate and we do not have confidence in his leadership.

"Though he was apologetic, we are not confident he accepts he was wrong.

"This issue remains unresolved. We will continue working with the Scottish Police Authority, and other Justice stakeholders, until we are confident the governance of the SPA is significantly improved."

Image caption Mary Fee said the committee were not confident Mr Flanagan accepted he was in the wrong

At its latest meeting, the SPA board agreed to hold meetings in public "wherever possible", to publish papers in advance and to introduce a function for members of the public to put questions to the board.

They also appointed Nicola Marchant as deputy chair under Mr Flanagan in a move to "improve communication and increase capacity".

Mr Flanagan said he would consider the latest Holyrood report "very carefully over the coming days and reflect on its contents".

He said: "As I indicated in my evidence to the committee, I have publicly acknowledged recent mistakes without caveat or qualification. I also believe that in my time in office I have brought much improvement and clarity to the strategy, governance, sustainability, and relationships within policing.

"I remain focussed on building a broad consensus around my continuing leadership of the SPA, and my contribution to a stable and collaborative leadership within policing as a whole.

"Today, and in recognition of recent areas of contention, the SPA has backed my recommended changes to governance that will increase both the transparency of our meetings and the accessibility of information.

"This will begin to address the concerns of stakeholders, and the inspection report of HMICS will provide a further opportunity to build on that."

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