‘You’re not running Kremlin’, police watchdog chief told

MSP Alex Neil had harsh words for the SPAs Andrew Flanagan. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
MSP Alex Neil had harsh words for the SPAs Andrew Flanagan. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
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The chairman of the Scottish Police Authority has been warned he is “not running the Kremlin” as MSPs voiced concerns over secrecy within the organisation.

Andrew Flanagan faced a torrent of questions from Holyrood’s public audit committee over his management of the watchdog’s board – including whether he had considered his own position.

Mr Flanagan had admitted he did not pass on to other board members a letter sent to him by Derek Penman, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, which questioned governance arrangements at the SPA and the decision to hold some of its meetings behind closed doors.

The SPA, which provides oversight of Police Scotland, has come under fire for a lack of transparency. Concerns have also been expressed over the handling of the resignation of one board member who quit over the issue.

A new governance framework approved by the board following a review by Mr Flanagan commissioned by justice secretary Michael Matheson has led to some committee meetings being held in private and board papers only being made available on the day of the meeting.

SNP MSP Alex Neil said: “Every board member under the guidelines and under statute is entitled to know what the Chief Inspector of Constabulary is saying.”

He added: “This is not the Kremlin you are running, it is supposed to be an open public body, accountable … you are accountable to the board members.”

Mr Neil said the letter from Mr Penman raised questions over whether “decisions are being effectively made in private and nodded through in public”.

“We have this secret society … inside the board [of the SPA] … deciding on transparency of governance and the whole thing is done without public knowledge, without people out there being able to hold this board to account, because this is all done deliberately behind closed doors to undermine the very principles of the transparency and accountability that the whole purpose of the review the cabinet ­secretary set up was designed to address.”

Shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said: “Police Scotland clearly has an issue with transparency and accountability, and that showed at this session.

“One of the reasons for the single force’s creation was to make it more open and efficient. But going on what was heard at this Holyrood committee, it is being more secretive than ever.”