Andrew Flanagan To Resign As Scottish Police Authority Chair

14 June 2017, 11:36 | Updated: 14 June 2017, 12:23

Andrew Flanagan

The chair of Scotland's police watchdog has announced he will stand down from the role.

Andrew Flanagan is resigning from the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) amid ongoing controversy over his conduct and wider issues surrounding transparency and governance at the organisation.

He said: "Recent events have focused on my disagreement with a board member and perceptions of a wider lack of transparency in the SPA.

"I have apologised to the former board member and put in place changes to the governance processes of the SPA.

"There are many serious challenges faced by policing in Scotland but the continued media and Parliamentary debate on these issues risks coming a prolonged distraction.''

Mr Flanagan, chair of the oversight body since September 2015, said he had concluded it was in the "best interests of policing'' that he stand down.

He sent his resignation letter to the Justice Secretary on Tuesday, offering to continue in the post until a successor is appointed.

"With a strategic direction for the service well in train and the right mix of leadership in Police Scotland to deliver it, I do not wish the ongoing debate to get in the way as we move into the implementation phase,'' he said.

"I have therefore taken the decision that it would be in the best interests of policing if I were to step down from my role as chair of the SPA.

"The next few months will involve an intensive period of work to develop implementation plans and effective governance structures to manage and oversee the transformation programme.

"To avoid any hiatus or delay, I have indicated to the Cabinet Secretary that I would be willing to stay on until he appoints a successor and to ensure an orderly handover.''

He added: "I take pride in being a part of this chapter of policing history in Scotland and for the personal successes I have had since taking up the role in 2015 - in particular shaping a long-term strategy for Police Scotland, recruiting a new Chief Constable and senior leadership team, and setting a clear direction for bringing financial sustainability.

"As a result, I am confident that the single police service in Scotland now has a solid platform from which to build an even better service for the people of Scotland.

"I hope that is a position on which we can build both consensus and momentum.''

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said he was grateful to Mr Flanagan for his "significant contribution to policing''.

"However, he has acknowledged that mistakes have been made,'' he said.

"He has offered a full and very public apology, and made clear changes to transparency and governance in light of the concerns raised.''

Mr Matheson also announced a review into the support provided to the SPA board.

It will be jointly led by SPA deputy chair Nicola Marchant and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar chief executive Malcolm Burr, and is expected to report in the autumn.

The review will "consider how the executive of SPA can best support the board to take informed, transparent decisions'', he said.

It comes in addition to a review of the SPA by HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS) Derek Penman.

Mr Flanagan's resignation followed mounting pressure from MSPs.

He came under fire at a series of parliamentary inquiries over governance and transparency within the organisation, and accusations of bullying a former SPA board member.

The Public Audit Committee was heavily critical, writing to Mr Matheson voicing "very serious concerns'' about his conduct.

Holyrood's Justice Sub-Committee on Policing last month declared it had "no confidence'' in his leadership.

Mr Flanagan said he would consider the committee's findings "very carefully'' having previously refused to quit.

The workings of the SPA came under close scrutiny following a row over board meetings being held behind closed doors.

Revelations concerning Mr Flanagan's conduct emerged during parliamentary sessions, including his "inappropriate'' handling of board member Moi Ali, who quit after speaking out against the closed-door policy, and his failure to circulate a critical letter from Mr Penman to the rest of the board.

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: "Andrew Flanagan has taken the right decision in the interests of the SPA.

"However, serious damage has already been done to the reputation of the organisation.

"For that, the SNP government must accept its full share of the blame, given their botched centralisation of policing.

"While the next chair must ensure there is now a genuine culture shift towards greater transparency and democracy, the Justice Secretary needs to guarantee this through legislation.''