Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has stepped in to end an embarrassing turf war between the two top figures in Scotland’s planned new national police force.
It follows weeks of disagreement between Chief Constable Stephen House and Scottish Police Authority chair Vic Emery over who should have responsibility for finance and human resources when the new force replaces Scotland’s eight regional ones on April 1.
The two groups met in Glasgow on Friday, emerging with a deal that creates separate teams in the disputed areas, but they pledged to work in partnership. According to one newspaper report, House and Emery between them spent £6,300 on legal advice about the dispute.
Tensions first became apparent last November, when House told a Scottish Parliament committee that ‘a gobsmacking major problem with the legislation’ had emerged, which left it unclear whether he would have any operational control or staff resources in the HR and finance fields.
Emery announced after Friday’s meeting that MacAskill had asked the authority’s board to provide House with sufficient support staff to enable him to fulfil his duties under the new force’s founding legislation.
"It is the Scottish Government's view that, under the Act, this is needed to allow the Chief Constable to perform his administrative responsibilities effectively,” Emery said, adding: “Although I would have preferred this input to have come a lot earlier, my suggestion is that we agree to this request."
Alex Salmond was forced to defend the legislation at First Minister’s Questions, when Willie Rennie, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the only major party to oppose the reforms, accused the SPA of trying to ‘strip the chief constable of significant powers’ and said that House had requested new legislation to resolve the ambiguities.
Salmond claimed in response that the dispute was ‘a policy question’ rather than a legislative problem.