Scotland politics

Minister 'unaware' of any plans to shut down police unit

Michael Matheson
Image caption Mr Matheson said the government had not been made aware of any plans to shut the unit down

The Scottish government is not aware of any plans to shut down Police Scotland's internal affairs unit, the justice secretary has said.

Michael Matheson was questioned at Holyrood following newspaper reports that the force's Counter Corruption Unit was to be closed down.

The unit is under investigation after officers broke rules by intercepting communications without approval.

Mr Matheson said it would not be proper to comment until the review was over.

The Sunday Mail newspaper had reported that the unit was to be shut down following May's Holyrood elections, less than three years after it was set up in 2013.

MSPs have been investigating the unit's conduct after the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office (Iocco) said officers had obtained communications data on five occasions without judicial approval, breaching new regulations.

A review is also being undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland amid a series of allegations.

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson, who headed the unit and was questioned by MSPs about its role, has announced he is to step down when his contract expires.

Image caption DCC Neil Richardson will not seek to have his contract renewed

During topical questions at Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon, MSP Alison McInnes asked Mr Matheson if the unit was to be abolished.

He said the Scottish government "has not been advised of any plans" to do so.

When pressed by Ms McInnes about the unit's "unlawful spying on journalists' sources" and whether he was "concerned" about its conduct, Mr Matheson said it would be better not to comment while a review was ongoing.

He added: "The Scottish Police Authority has requested HMICS to undertake a review of the unit following the Iocco investigation last year. That review is currently taking place and it would seem the most sensible thing for us all to do is to wait for the outcome.

"I think it's always dangerous for any member to come to this chamber and base their question on what's contained within a newspaper report, which I'm sure all politicians are aware are not always as accurate as some members believe they are.

"We have not been made aware of any planned changes to the counter corruption unit."

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