SPA chairman accused by MSPs of 'behaving inappropriately' towards board member

12 May 2017, 15:33 | Updated: 12 May 2017, 15:36

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The chairman of Scotland's police watchdog has "behaved inappropriately'' and his actions apparently led to the resignation of a former board member, a Holyrood committee has said.

Jackie Baillie, acting convener of the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, has written a letter to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson raising "very serious concerns'' about the standard of governance at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and the behaviour of its chairman Andrew Flanagan.

The highly critical letter comes a day after former board member Moi Ali, who resigned after raising concerns over transparency at the organisation, gave evidence to the committee accusing Mr Flanagan of bullying her and saying he is unfit to continue in the role - claims he denies.

The SPA has said it is "listening to public and civic concerns''.

The committee's letter states: "It appears to us that Mr Flanagan treated Ms Ali in an inappropriate manner, to the degree that she felt obliged to resign from the board.

"We would be extremely worried if any potential members of the SPA board (or of any public board) were to be dissuaded from applying because they felt they would not be able to offer appropriate criticism and challenge.''

The letter states the SPA's "problems'' lie with transparency and accountability and criticised decisions to hold private ``members' meetings'' to discuss governance without producing any public notes, adding "some of its decisions on basic operational matters have been inexplicable''.

The letter also stresses the need to improve diversity on the SPA board, stating the current board is "male-dominated'' and in need of significant cultural change.

Ms Baillie said: "The committee considers Mr Flanagan's behaviour to be unacceptable on occasion. We would be extremely worried if potential board members were put off from applying to the SPA board because of this.

"Clearly, the SPA has a lot of work to do in improving transparency at the very heart of the organisation - only then will it be able to gain public confidence.''

Responding to Ms Ali's comments to the committee, Mr Flanagan, who was not present at the time, 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.''

An SPA spokesman said: "As board members outlined this week, the SPA is listening to public and civic concerns and has already signalled it is ready to adapt its approach at the next public board meeting on May 25.

"In addition, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary is currently looking at governance within the SPA and we are working closely with the inspectorate to facilitate that review. Its findings and recommendations will further inform our approach to improved governance and transparency.''