Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has been criticised by political opponents after accusing MSPs of “grandstanding” on the issue of Police Scotland.
Mr MacAskill said the national force needed greater support from both the Scottish Government and Holyrood more generally due to a “leadership gap”.
Mr MacAskill, who served as justice secretary from 2007 to 2014, made the comments after it emerged Chief Constable Phil Gormley is being investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) over misconduct allegations.
Mr Gormley is being investigated for bullying following a complaint from Superintendent Graham McInarlin, 54.
In a newspaper article, Mr MacAskill said: “The chairman of the Scottish Police Authority has resigned in inglorious circumstances and the senior Deputy Chief Constable, Iain Livingstone, is retiring. He was viewed as Mr Gormley’s likely successor but, with other senior officers going or gone, the leadership team is stretched.
“It’s time for the Scottish Government, which has distanced itself recently, to show greater support for the service and for opposition MSPs to cease grandstanding and political point-scoring.”
Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said Mr MacAskill was right to point out the leadership gap but accused him of hypocrisy.
She said: “Kenny MacAskill has a cheek to accuse opposition politicians of ‘political point-scoring’. He is the man responsible for the creation of Police Scotland, and was responsible for one of the most outrageous attempts at political point-scoring in Holyrood when he attempted to claim that opposition to his plans to abolish corroboration in the courts was part of an anti-independence conspiracy.
“Raising valid concerns about the SNP government’s handling of justice matters is not ‘grandstanding’ – it is doing the job that voters expect of us.”
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “It’s bizarre that MacAskill has criticised MSPs for standing up to the SNP.”
Mr Gormley was appointed as Scotland’s top police officer in January 2016.
On Wednesday, he said: “I am co-operating fully with the Pirc and will provide all necessary assistance to bring this matter to a timely and satisfactory conclusion.”