Policing fears: Kenny MacAskill faces call to quit

JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill has dismissed opposition calls for his resignation at Holyrood today over concerns about policing in Scotland.

Labour will lead the attack on Mr MacAskill over his handling of controversial policies in policing and court reform. Picture: TSPL

The SNP minister defended the performance of the new national force, Police Scotland, and insisted he could not “interfere” in operational issues amid recent concerns over armed police and the spiralling use of stop and search.

Mr MacAskill told MSPs they would be “horrified” if he had attempted to intervene in day to day police operations.

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“The Chief Constable should not be directly accountable to me or any other politician,” Mr MacAskill said.

“Operational independence is different from accountability. The Chief Constable is solely responsible for decisions to enforce the law, but he is accountable in our case to the SPA (Scottish Police Authority) for these decisions.”

MSPs were today debating a motion at Holyrood calling for Mr MacAskill to go which was lodged by Labour’s Graeme Pearson.

But the justice secretary warned: “Policing should not be used as a political football and Mr Pearson should not be traducing the police and the SPA and stop undermining the morale of officers and staff.”

Police Scotland last week climbed down on a controversial policy which saw armed police deployed on routine beat duties, but Mr Pearson directed the blame at Mr MacAskill today insisting it was “firmly his fault.”

He added: “The cabinet Secretary has abandoned his responsibilities in relation to police reform. He is tired, lacking ideas and gracelessly refuses to listen - leaving it to a private power struggle between officials to deliver.”