Scotland politics

Scottish Police Authority chief refuses to step down

Andrew Flanagan
Image caption Andrew Flanagan said "now is not the time" for a change of leadership at the SPA

Scottish Police Authority chairman Andrew Flanagan has refused to step down despite criticism of his management of the board.

Holyrood's committee has been investigating transparency at the top of the SPA, and has been strongly critical of Mr Flanagan's conduct.

He told MSPs that he acknowledged he had made mistakes, but said "now is not the time" for a change of leadership.

The Scottish Conservatives said Mr Flanagan's "time must surely be up".

Holyrood's public audit committee wrote to the justice secretary voicing "very serious concerns" about how the SPA is run, saying Mr Flanagan appeared to have "behaved inappropriately".

This followed a series of heated evidence sessions a the parliament, which saw SNP MSP Alex Neil tell police bosses that "it's not the Kremlin you're running", claiming there was a "secret society" within the group's board.

The Holyrood inquiry has been continuing alongside a separate probe by HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Derek Penman into the governance of the SPA and concerns about transparency.

'Unanimous support'

Appearing before the justice sub-committee on policing, Mr Flanagan said he had decided not to stand down.

He said: "I have reflected very seriously on the views expressed by parliamentarians and other stakeholders. In reflecting on the last two years, I believe there is more that I have got right than I have got wrong, on strategy, on clarity and control, on refreshed leadership for policing and on many other aspects.

"I acknowledge my recent mistakes, and you have rightly taken me to task for them. But I hope to be judged also on the significant progress achieved and the leadership potential I can still offer.

"Policing is in a much better position than it was, but there is still a huge amount to do. I believe now is not the time for yet another change of leadership in what will be a pivotal and challenging next three years for policing in Scotland.

"I have discussed this with my board and I have their unanimous support."

Image caption Moi Ali said her exit from the board had been a "really horrendous experience"

Much of the criticism of Mr Flanagan centred around a row with former board member Moi Ali, who resigned after clashing with the chairman over board meetings being held behind closed doors.

She told MSPs that she felt she had been bullied, describing her exit from the board as "a really horrendous experience" and saying Mr Flanagan was "not fit to continue on any public board".

The public audit committee said Mr Flanagan had acted in an "inappropriate matter", and said the "default position for such an important body is that its committees should meet in public".

Mr Flanagan told MSPs that he had written to Ms Ali to apologise, saying his approach was a matter of "bitter regret" and a "misjudgement". He said she had been "right in raising substantive concerns about transparency", adding: "I was wrong."

He subsequently confirmed he had sent the letter of apology on Tuesday - days after the critical report from the public audit committee - and Ms Ali posted on twitter that she had received it via email "only after I suggested legal action and issued an ultimatum".

Mr Flanagan said that in light of the committee's report: "I have to accept that I was wrong."

MSPs were critical of Mr Flanagan during the meeting, with Stewart Stevenson referencing his own resignation as transport minister in 2010.

He said: "The biggest of people will always put the interests of the organisation of which they are part above their personal considerations should they be part of the decision-making. I simply invite you to take the same position as I took in 2010."

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Douglas Ross said Mr Flanagan's time must "surely be up", adding: "Today's developments have done nothing to improve his reputation or restore confidence in the SPA."

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