Scottish police watchdog in ‘stooshie’ over ethics

THE police watchdog is at the centre of a “stooshie” with Scotland’s single force over plans to set up an ethics panel.

SPA chairman Vic Emery has concerns over governance. Picture: Michael Gillen
SPA chairman Vic Emery has concerns over governance. Picture: Michael Gillen

Police Scotland is considering the move amid growing public concern over controversial policies such as stop and search and officers being armed.

But at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) last week, members expressed their frustration at not being properly consulted over the proposal. The development comes after SPA chairman Vic Emery complained to members of the Scottish Parliament’s justice sub-committee on policing that the watchdog is only able to scrutinise Police Scotland’s operational decisions “after the fact”.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

During the SPA meeting, board member Graham Houston said he was disappointed to learn about the ethics panel in a newspaper report.

Questioning Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson, Mr Houston said: “Why would you not have that conversation about ethics of all things with the authority rather than consult others and then come to the authority about how best we can get engaged?”

Mr Emery said the SPA had been consulted, but blamed media reports for giving board members the wrong idea about what was planned.

“We had a discussion at a members meeting back in March or April,” he said. “We said at that time we wanted 
options brought back to the members.

“Regrettably, there’s been something that’s got into the newspapers, which has created a bit of a stooshie and I regret that. But it doesn’t change the fact that we need some options about how to take that forward.”

Appearing before MSPs last month, Mr Emery said the 2012 Scottish Parliament act establishing the single police force had given the chief constable “operational independence from any political interference”.

He said: “The scrutiny role that we have is pretty much after the fact, and that is not really my view of governance. We need to move on to a situation where we are consulted in advance.”

Police Scotland said it was consulting over the appointment of advisers following the establishment of committees elsewhere in the UK.

DCC Richardson of Police Scotland said: “The general position around [our] ethics advisory panels is that it’s a work in progress. I still think it represents a valid opportunity for us moving forward.

“There’s no decision yet been taken and it’s something I would fully anticipate bringing to members to have a further discussion on, not least because there will be potential opportunities for the [SPA] to engage with this,” he said.