Police Scotland must be supervised by an impartial body, not a politician – Kenny MacAskill

A national force like Police Scotland needs impartial scrutiny rather than being accountable directly to a politician, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Susan Deacon seemed to have been making a decent fist of leading oversight of police, writes Kenny MacAskill (Picture: John Devlin)

I was disappointed that Susan Deacon stepped down as chair of the Scottish Police Authority. Having supported her appointment, I’d felt she’d made a decent fist of it. There had been some criticism of the organisation from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary but that seemed more in the nature of advice from a critical friend than any scathing condemnation.

Moreover, whilst the SPA struggles to find its feet with it now seeking its fourth chair in five years, Police Scotland, which it oversees, has stabilised from its turbulent period. The challenges there are now financial and on resource, rather than on service delivery or leadership.

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Her reasons for her departure were general rather than specific with reference made to interference and structures. Yet she presided over a board that was made up of the great and the good from the corporate world and civic Scotland. None seem to have either publicly or privately backed her and staff unions and federations have failed to offer any support.

So, while it’s not helpful, life in the police world goes on. It would be appropriate for the incoming chair to take stock but it does seem that it’s tweaks and minor changes, rather than fundamental reform, that’s needed.

Having presided over the SPA’s establishment, I know why there needs to be a supervisory body for a national police service.

Accountability and direction cannot lie with a Minister and needs to be with an impartial oversight body. Further tweaks and changes may be required, but an SPA there must be.

Kenny MacAskill is the SNP candidate in East Lothian