Leaders: New Police Scotland chief needs to clarify position

Police Scotland new Chief Constable Phil Gormley. Picture: John Devlin
Police Scotland new Chief Constable Phil Gormley. Picture: John Devlin
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Gormley must be open about his involvement in the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad to ensure public retains faith in him

Calls from politicians and pressure groups for Phil Gormley, the new Chief Constable of Police Scotland, to speak out and clarify his involvement in the undercover police officer scandal which is currently rocking the Metropolitan Police Force should be heeded.

News at the weekend that yet another woman had been duped by an officer operating under a false name to believe that she had a future – marriage and children – with a man who was not who he appeared to be, is an uncomfortable development in a saga which has rocked the very core of the Met.

And now the revelation that Gormley could have been in a position that he was aware these actions had occurred – or at least headed up a unit which had responsibility for the men who had carried out this subterfuge - is seriously worrying for the leadership of the Scottish police force.

Everybody outside of the Metropolitan Police Force would surely recognise this practice as beyond controversial, yet senior police officers decided to press on with it.

This is not a great start in his new role for Gormley, on whom Scotland have pinned high hopes to lead Police Scotland well.

Indeed, the Met scandal is one of the most shameful in police history.

So far, its effects mostly seem to have been felt south of the border, although with the news that the latest victim had family connections to Scotland – and questions over Gormley’s involvement just weeks after his appointment to his new role – it is slowly creeping northwards. Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson has led the calls for clarification, requesting that Gormley makes clear his involvement in the Met’s controversial Special Demonstration Squad. “He would do well to explore this issue in a public forum,” says Pearson.

When Sir Stephen House announced his intentions to step down in August, it came after substantial public pressure in the wake of controversies including the M9 crash scandal and major criticism of House’s decision to allow officers to carry firearms on regular jobs.

It was hoped that the new leader would revolutionise an organisation which has been dogged by various troubles since its formation in 2013.

Pearson has acknowledged that Gormley may have no knowledge of what had occurred in the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad – but has quite rightly flagged fears that this is perhaps even more worrying. While Gormley was not in position at the time that men such as Carlo Neri and Mark Kennedy had relationships with their victims, as head of the Special Branch from 2005, he should have been aware of everything that was going on – especially a practice as controversial as this.

Although they may have ended the relationships before Gormley came into his role, the officers continued to work under the same false names.

Whatever the extent of Gormley’s involvement, he needs to be upfront and frank with the Scottish people to ensure their trust as head of Police Scotland in the future.

Salmon laws step in right direction

Although perhaps controversial in some quarters, new measures to preserve wild salmon stocks in Scotland are necessary. Plans unveiled yesterday by the Scottish Government to put a three-year ban on killing fish outside of estuary limits and controlling the numbers of wild salmon which can be taken from inland waterways is a step towards futureproofing salmon fishing in this country.

For salmon is part of Scotland’s identity – as closely connected to the country as an international icon as whisky and the Loch Ness Monster.

But according to the latest figures, stocks have declined by more than 80 per cent over the past 40 years – to the lowest levels in history. And from an economic perspective alone, these measures must be welcomed.

If Scotland reached a situation where tourists could not come to Scotland to fish for salmon, we would be in serious trouble. The wild fisheries industry is worth around £200 million a year to the Scottish economy.

We also must remember that we have a global responsibility to ensure that salmon stocks are not depleted. Wild Atlantic salmon have already disappeared in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – while only four countries (Scotland, Norway, Ireland and Iceland) have healthy numbers of the fish.

Fishermen will surely understand why the measures need to be brought in. For them, the news is undoubtedly a disappointment, coming shortly after the start of the fishing season was delayed in a separate measure to protect the species, but it will help to ensure that the sport – and the species – remains viable in future years.