Chris Marshall: Policing isn't in crisis - just its leadership

The appointment of Phil Gormley in late 2015 was supposed to usher in an period of relative stability for Police Scotland following its tumultuous first two years.

Police Scotland is looking for its third chief constable in five years
Police Scotland is looking for its third chief constable in five years

But while Scottish policing remains on a sound footing overall, its senior leadership has continued to dominate headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Since the chief constable went on leave in September, it has felt like barely a week has gone by without further allegations coming to light, all of which were denied by Mr Gormley.

Given the length of time it takes the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) to carry out its complex inquiries, it looked increasingly unlikely Scotland’s most senior police officer would be back at work before his contract expired later this year.

Following his decision to resign, the Pirc investigations will cease, meaning we’ll probably never know the full detail of what went on.

With the near-daily slew of negative headlines, it’s easy to get the impression Scottish policing is in crisis. It’s not.

Police officers continue to perform their duties effectively and without fanfare, including the recent arrest and subsequent imprisonment of a heavily armed nine-man organised crime gang.

But after a difficult few years, the national force badly needs a prolonged period of consolidation.

The appointment of the next chief constable will be key, but so too will be the performance of the dysfunctional Scottish Police Authority, which has so far failed in its twin mission of effectively scrutinising the police budget and holding senior officers to account.

Whoever the next chief constable is, they must be prepared for a job that is now arguably the most pressured in UK policing outside of the Met.

Police Scotland celebrates its fifth birthday on 1 April – it remains to be seen whether it will be a happy one.