It is regrettable that anyone should be forced to resign when no wrong-doing has been proven, but Police Scotland’s Chief Constable, Phil Gormley, clearly had to go.
He may see himself as a victim of a “no smoke without fire” mentality – a bitter irony for any police officer schooled in the importance of proof and hard evidence – but leadership requires more than simple adherence to employment law. Too many senior officers had complained about him, too many relationships were clearly broken for good, for Mr Gormley to continue in his job – regardless of the findings of an official investigation into allegations of bullying. His situation was made worse by the fact his contract only had another 10 months to run. If he had been cleared and returned to his post, he would have had little time to improve the operation of the force. With more time, perhaps there would have been a way back.
Opposition politicians worked hard to portray Justice Secretary Michael Matheson as the bogeyman of this depressing saga, but struggled to make claims of undue political interference in the running of the police stick. While he made clear his displeasure with a subsequently overturned decision by the Scottish Police Authority, under former chair Andrew Flanagan, to allow Mr Gormley to return to work, he did so with some justification. Mr Flanagan was unable to reassure Mr Matheson that due process had been followed by the SPA board and the SPA had also failed to tell the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner – investigating the bullying claims – that Mr Gormley was going to return to work the very next day, alongside the people who had made the allegations against him. Mr Matheson could be forgiven for an ordinary human reaction to such an unsatisfactory situation. Crucially, the new SPA chair, Susan Deacon, has backed Ms Matheson and, given she is a former Scottish Labour Cabinet Minister, this speaks volumes.
It is possible the botched attempt to allow him to return to work by the Flanagan-run SPA was the final nail in the coffin of Mr Gormley’s Police Scotland career.
All this has been a massive distraction from the real business of Police Scotland – keeping us all safe – and, hopefully, the force’s third Chief Constable in five years will be able to concentrate on ensuring officers on the frontlines are given everything they need to do their vitally important job.