Sturgeon must change the law to strengthen policing

8 Feb 2018

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP speaking during First Minister's Questions held in the Scottish parliament, Edinburgh today. 09 June 2016. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to change the law to ensure future heads of a vital policing body are appointed by parliament.

The demand comes after the resignation of Scotland’s top policeman Phil Gormley sealed a chaotic few months for the single force and justice secretary Michael Matheson.

And today, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the control of appointing the chair of the Scottish Police Authority should rest with the whole Scottish Parliament.

At First Minister’s Questions, she pointed out the current arrangement means a single minister chooses the SPA chief, even though it’s supposed to be a wholly independent role.

She cited the example of Mr Matheson, who anointed previous chair Andrew Flanagan in 2015, before forcing him to change his mind over the proposed reinstatement of the now-departed Mr Gormley.

However, while indicating she may be sympathetic to such a move, Ms Sturgeon said the current law made that impossible.

The Scottish Conservatives have now called on ministers to bring forward a change in the law, enabling a vote at Holyrood for MSPs to appoint future SPA chairs.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said:

“The First Minister says she can’t make these changes because it would require a change in the law.

“Well, that’s what the Scottish Parliament is here for, and if the government brings forward this proposed change, it will have the backing of the Scottish Conservatives.

“That would be a key way to strengthen the structure of oversight of the single police force, and having a chair approved by parliament, not at the grace of a justice secretary.

“In its short life, the single force has lost two heads of the SPA, seen the resignation of two chief constables, and an investigations body overwhelmed by complaints.

“The SNP’s management of this process has been nothing short of disastrous.”