MSPs declare lack of confidence in Scottish Police Authority chair

26 May 17

Pressure is mounting on the chair of the supervisory body for Scotland’s national police force, after two committees of MSPs declared a lack of confidence in his leadership of the Scottish Police Authority.

The criticisms of accountant Andrew Flanagan follow months of controversy over what some say is an excessively secretive and bullying governance regime at the SPA. 

They centre on a decision to hold board meetings in private and withhold board papers from public view until the day the board meets, along with claims that key documents were not properly circulated among members.

One prominent member of the board, communications consultant Moi Ali, resigned in protest over Flanagan’s conduct, and the authority is now facing inquiries both from Holyrood’s audit committee and from the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Derek Penman.

Flanagan’s successive appearances before MSPs have served only to inflame the row. In a letter to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, the Justice sub-committee described the SPA chair’s responses to questioning as “inadequate” and said he had failed to reassure the committee that he understood his actions to be wrong.

The letter said: “The sub-committee does not have confidence that the current chair is the best person to lead the board". 

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

It follows an equally trenchant letter to Matheson earlier this month from the Public Audit Committee, which voiced “very serious concerns about the standards of governance at the SPA” and called for a “culture shift” to ensure fewer private meetings and more transparent information.

During the hearing which preceded that letter, one MSP warned Flanagan: “It’s not the Kremlin you’re running.”

Flanagan has promised to reflect on the criticisms, but has previously said that he does not consider the time to be right for a change of leadership at the SPA. 

The SPA board this week appointed a new deputy chair, Nicola Marchant, as well as agreeing that meetings should be public “wherever possible” and that board papers should be published in advance of meetings.

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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