SENIOR police officers have expressed fears the operational independence of the chief constable of Scotland’s new single police service is being undermined by the body set up to hold the force to account.
The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said in a statement last night it was concerned about the erosion of independence, in response to the creation of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.
The SPA, chaired by Vic Emery, was set up last month to support and scrutinise the new Scottish Police Service and its chief constable, Stephen House, formerly the chief constable of Strathclyde Police.
The Scotsman understands that police officers have been concerned by signals from the SPA that it may take control of the new unitary force’s budget and staffing decisions.
This week, a motion outlining those concerns was tabled at Holyrood by Graeme Pearson, the Labour MSP and former director of the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency.
He believes Mr House must have control over finance and human resources, in order to make the correct decisions on policing operations. His motion said: “The Parliament is deeply concerned about the manner in which, it believes, the operational independence of the Police Service of Scotland is being undermined.”
It says there is “alarm” over proposals put forward by the SPA for it to take direct management and control over the finance and human resources functions of the single service.
Mr Emery has written to Mr Pearson, saying the SPA was not created “to be solely a scrutiny body”. But he tried to reassure him “the SPA has not put forward any proposals for the organisational structure of functions such as HR and finance”.
Last night, Chief Supt David O’Connor, the president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said: “We cannot support a position where we might see a chief constable being subservient to the chair of the Scottish Police Authority.”