FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon faces fresh claims Government ‘leant’ on police

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Nicola Sturgeon today came under fire over claims that her Government has "leant" on police chiefs to block the return of sidelined Chief Constable Phil Gormley to duties.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson rounded on the First Minister over a lack of transparency on the part of the SNP Government in dealing with the leadership crisis at Police Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon defended Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

Nicola Sturgeon defended Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

Former Scottish Police Authority chair Andrew Flanagan told MSPs today Justice Secretary Michael Matheson made it clear that the move to allow Mr Gormley to return to duty was a "bad decision" while misconduct allegations were being carried out.

READ THIS: Police authority chair had ‘no choice’ but to ‘pause’ Gormley’s return

Mr Flanagan said it was "clear" Mr Matheson did not want the return after their meeting in November.

Ms Davidson said this "contradicts" evidence provided by Ms Sturgeon to Parliament where she insisted that her Justice Secretary only questioned the process involved.

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"The former SPA chair was asked this morning whether he felt the cabinet Secretary made a value judgement on the decision and he said Yes," the Tory leader said

After a second meeting just hours after the first one, Mr Matheson then raised the process issues, it was claimed.

"The SPA chair called it a one-sided meeting and he said he felt he had no choice but to reverse the decision of his independent board," Ms Davidson said.

Mr Flanagan told MSPs today: "I changed my mind based on the cabinet secretary being unhappy."

Ms Davidson added: "The independent chair of an independent body has two meetings with the Justice Secretary. For the first, he's told he's made a bad decision. And after the second, he's left in no doubt he has to reverse it.

"How can that possibly tally with what SNP ministers have claimed in recent weeks?"

But Ms Sturgeon said it was also clear from Mr Flanagan's evidence that he had not been "directed" by Mr Matheson to change his position.

"Questions were asked and I absolutely am of the view that the Justice Secretary was right to ask those questions," the First Minister added.

Mr Gormley is currently subject to a number of bullying complaints and there were concerns at the the time that the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) and those who made the complaints would not be informed of his proposed return.

"If the Justice Secretary hadn't asked any of those questions and the next morning teh Chief Constable turned up to work, Ruth Davidson and other opposition leaders would have come to this chamber, demanding statement and no doubt demanding the Justice Secretary consider his position."