Chris Marshall: Deputy tipped to take over from under-investigation police chief

Deputy chief constable Iain Livingstone has postponed his retirement to fill the void left by Police Scotland chief constable Phil Gormley going on leave, but he is now the favourite to take over from his boss.
Deputy chief constable Iain Livingstone has postponed his retirement to fill the void left by Police Scotland chief constable Phil Gormley going on leave, but he is now the favourite to take over from his boss.
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Scotland’s most senior police officer found himself on the front page of a tabloid newspaper on Sunday, his image snatched by a photographer as he returned from a shopping trip.

It’s the sort of treatment usually reserved for criminals or celebrities, but Phil Gormley – who remains chief constable – is at the centre of a media feeding frenzy after his decision to go on leave.

The press scrutiny comes with the territory in a job which commands a salary of more than £214,000.

But Mr Gormley finds himself in an unprecedented position for a chief constable of Police Scotland, the national force which was formed in 2013.

The chief is currently being investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) following two separate allegations of bullying.

The first complaint, from Superintendent Graham McInarlin, emerged in July, at which point the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) determined Mr Gormley would continue in post, deciding it was “not appropriate” to suspend him.

It was during the Pirc investigation into the complaint that the SPA learned of allegations made by Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, a former divisional commander for Edinburgh and the senior officer now tasked with bringing forward Police Scotland’s 10-year strategy, Policing 2026.

A third complaint, from a female inspector, is currently being assessed by the SPA, with suggestions there may be more allegations yet to come.

Details of the complaint from Mr Graham became public knowledge on Friday when the chief constable released a short statement announcing his decision to go on leave.

He denies the allegations against him and has stated his intention to resume “full duties” once matters are resolved.

Yet while Mr Gormley is innocent of any wrongdoing until it is proved otherwise, a huge question mark now hangs over his future.

It seems he has lost the confidence of at least some key figures in his senior team, the force’s executive command.

As one source put it last week: Gormley has lost the dressing room.

It’s fair to say this is not what was envisaged when he took up post in January 2016. After three tumultuous years under Sir Stephen House, it was hoped the new chief would help usher in an era of calm consolidation.

But far from steadying the ship, the force has continued to be buffeted by crisis and controversy on an almost weekly basis.

The SPA, which itself is looking for a new chairman and chief executive, has never been too far from much of the criticism.

The appointment of Mr Gormley could yet be added to its list of mistakes.

With the chief constable on leave for the foreseeable future, the job of running the force falls to Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone.

Within hours of the latest allegations against Mr Gormley being made public, it emerged Mr Livingstone had re-considered his decision to take early retirement.

One of a small number of candidates interviewed for the top job before Mr Gormley’s appointment, Mr Livingstone now looks favourite to become the next chief constable.

Whether he would still want the job – and all that comes with it – remains to be seen.