Police authority chair had 'no choice' but to 'pause' Gormley's return

Andrew Flanagan, former head of the Scottish Police Authority
Andrew Flanagan, former head of the Scottish Police Authority
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The former head of the Scottish Police Authority has said he felt he had no choice but to postpone the return to work of Chief Constable Phil Gormley following an intervention by the justice secretary.

Andrew Flanagan told MSPs on the audit committee that he met Michael Matheson twice on Thursday 9 November, two days after the SPA board had agreed that Mr Gormley could resume his duties.

Mr Flanagan said the justice secretary had made it clear during the first meeting that he thought the board had made a "bad decision".

Mr Matheson then met Mr Flanagan later the same day along with three Scottish Government officials, telling the SPA chair the decision-making around Mr Gormley's return had been "deficient"

Mr Gormley has been on leave since September while allegations of bullying are investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc). He denies any wrongdoing.

MSPs heard the SPA decided Mr Gormley was fit to return to work when it emerged he was considering taking up a full-time post in England with the National Police Chief Council, while continuing to collect his £214,000 Police Scotland salary.

The former SPA chair agreed that he felt he had "no choice" but to "pause" Mr Gormley's return so that the justice secretary's concerns could be addressed.

Mr Flanagan told MSPs that all the board members who were at the SPA meeting on November 7 decided Mr Gormley could come back.

Mr Flanagan, who has now left the SPA, said: "Having reached that conclusion I wanted to advise the Cabinet Secretary of that.

"I met with him, I can't remember the exact date, but it was in early November, and explained the circumstances and he told me he thought it was a bad decision.

"It was clear to me that he did not want the chief constable to return at that point."

After a brief discussion with the justice secretary, Mr Flanagan left to attend a Holyrood committee.

When he came out of the meeting he was asked to meet Mr Matheson again, adding that while no officials had been present at their earlier discussion, on this occasion three officials were present.

Mr Flanagan said: "It was clear that the Cabinet Secretary was still very unhappy but he changed to discuss the process rather than the decision itself. I reminded him of his comment

earlier that it had been a bad decision, he told me not to bother with that and we then went on to discuss some of the processes."

When asked by Labour MSP Iain Gray if he felt he had "no choice but to pause the decision", Mr Flanagan said "Yes".