Scottish Police Authority 'PR disaster' over secret meetings

The body charged with overseeing Police Scotland and its £1 billion annual budget is set to be forced into an embarrassing U-turn over holding its meetings in private.

The SPA is charged with holding Police Scotland to account

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has been widely criticised for a decision it took last year to carry out most of its work behind closed doors.

HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Derek Penman told MSPs one recommendation on an ongoing review of the SPA by his organisation would be to return the meetings to a public setting.

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Members of Holyrood’s audit committee also heard from former board member Moi Ali who called for current chairman Andrew Flanagan to resign, saying he “is not fit to lead any public body”.

Ms Ali, who quit the SPA over the holding of private meetings and is from an ethnic minority background, said she had been bullied by the current chairman and described as being a “one-trick diversity pony” by previous chairman Vic Emery.

Mr Penman said: “I wouldn’t ordinarily pre-empt my review or my recommendations, but it would be unlikely that I won’t be making a recommendation to the chair of the SPA that the board meetings and committee meetings should revert to being held in public and that board papers should be circulated in advance.”

SNP committee member Alex Neil said: “The culture of the SPA is one of secrecy and non-cooperation with people, which is not acceptable.

“Ever since this board was set up, there have been real problems. There’s clearly a lot more work needed to get the SPA into the position it needs to be to gain the confidence of this parliament and the Scottish people.”

Mr Neil said the SPA’s treatment of Ms Ali had done “significant damage” which had created a “PR disaster”.

Following the committee meeting, Labour called on the Scottish Government to overhaul the SPA.

Justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said: “Bringing forward an already planned inspection does not go far enough, we need to see a drastic overhaul of how the SPA is run.

“There is a growing lack of confidence in the chair of the SPA.”

In a statement, Mr Flanagan said: “I reject the suggestion that I in any way bullied Moi Ali. Moi’s reasons for resigning are well documented and publicly available and make no reference to this assertion.”