A crunch meeting between Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Scotland’s under-fire police watchdog over the future of the Chief Constable was not recorded in formal minutes.
The meeting is at the centre of powder keg claims that Mr Matheson used it to “unlawfully” block the return to work of sidelined Chief Constable Phil Gormley.
The Justice Secretary insists he used the talks with former Scottish Police Authority chairman Andrew Flanagan to raise questions over the “process” being proposed by the watchdog to clear the way for Gormley’s return. At that stage the police chief was still subject of a bullying inquiry from the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner. His proposed return to duty was dropped.
Mr Matheson came under pressure to release the minutes of the meeting yesterday after revealing civil servants were present with him.
“The details of that meeting were taken at the time,” he told BBC Radio Scotland.
He said he would be “happy” for these to be released, but then suggested he would have to check if these were formal minutes.
But a Scottish Government later said: “There wasn’t a minute taken.”
He added that there is “not a minute taken of every meeting” which civil servants attend.
Lawyers for Mr Gormley have claimed that Mr Matheson did effectively block Mr Gormely’s return when he intervened and have threatened to sue the Scottish Government,claiming this was unlawful.
Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “Transparency and accountability have been a problem for the single force ever since its creation.
“By failing to take minutes in relation to such an important decision, Michael Matheson has only made this situation worse.
“The immediate suspicion of the public will be that the SNP government has something to hide.
“This was a meeting of monumental importance, and failure to record the information properly is unacceptable.”
Mr Matheson insisted his “concern was around the issue of the process they had in place” and not the decision itself, as he said would be happy for any minutes of the meeting between himself and Mr Flanagan to be released.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for a “root and branch review” of the Scottish Police Authority. Former health minister Susan Deacon recently took up the reins as the new chair of the organisation.