Scotland politics

MSPs renew calls for Scottish Police Authority chief to go

Andrew Flanagan
Image caption Andrew Flanagan has come under fire from two of Holyrood's committees

MSPs have renewed calls for Andrew Flanagan to leave his role as chairman of the Scottish Police Authority.

During a question session at Holyrood, members from all four opposition parties said it was time for Mr Flanagan to go.

Two committees issued scathing reports about his leadership of the police authority after transparency probes.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said issues would be considered carefully before the government made a decision.

Mr Flanagan previously said "now is not the time" for a change of leadership at the SPA, but has said he will consider the latest Holyrood reports "very carefully".

Holyrood's public audit committee and the justice sub-committee on policing have both criticised Mr Flanagan, with the former raising "very serious concerns" and the latter saying they "do not have confidence" in his leadership.

'Lost confidence'

The police watchdog is also investigating governance at the SPA after a board member quit amid a row over meetings being held behind closed doors and Mr Flanagan's failure to circulate critical correspondence.

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

Labour MSP Mary Fee, who leads the sub-committee, raised the matter with Mr Matheson at a chamber question session.

"Andrew Flanagan has lost the confidence of MSPs from all parties, including government backbenchers," she said.

"It is clear his position is untenable; it seems Mr Flanagan and the justice secretary are the last two people to see that.

"We need a drastic overhaul of how the SPA is run, and this must start with the very top of the SPA board. We need leadership from the Scottish Police Authority, but we don't have that at the moment.

"If Andrew Flanagan isn't going to do the right thing and resign, then we need leadership from the Scottish government.

"What will it take for the government to take action?"

Image caption Labour MSP Mary Fee urged the justice secretary to take action and sack Mr Flanagan

Mr Matheson said he was "conscious of the issues" raised by the committees, which he said would be considered carefully before any decision was taken.

He said: "Once we've had the opportunity to consider [committee reports] in detail, we'll be able to respond to these matters.

"I'm sure the member would recognise that it's important ministers do give thorough consideration to these issues in coming to a determination on these matters."

'Considered very carefully'

He later added: "On the issue of SPA governance, there is no doubt that there are aspects of the way in which the SPA has operated over the last four years that have not worked as well as they should have. There area areas where I believe it could make further improvements.

"I've been very clear about the need for the SPA to ensure that it operates in an open and transparent manner.

"There is no doubt that there have been improvements in the way in which the SPA has been operating.

"But notwithstanding that, I recognise the concerns that have been raised, and I can give the member an assurance that they will be considered very carefully and that the government will then come to a position once it's considered all these matters."

Image caption Michael Matheson said it was important due process is followed

MSPs from the other opposition parties also criticised Mr Flanagan.

Tory justice spokesman Douglas Ross said the evidence was "very clear" that "Andrew Flanagan's time as chair of the Scottish Police Authority should be over and it's certainly untenable that he continues".

Green MSP John Finnie, a former policeman, said: "Andrew Flanagan's position is untenable and he must go".

Lib Dem member Liam McArthur said Mr Flanagan had seemed "contrite" in committee meetings, but questioned whether a culture shift at the SPA was possible without a change at the top.

Mr Matheson subsequently underlined that it was important that due process was followed.

In response to the sub-committee's report, Mr Flanagan said he would consider it "very carefully" and "reflect on its contents".

He said: "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 focused 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."

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