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AUTHORITY LOST: Chair of Scottish Police Authority refuses to resign after facing challenge from Justice Committee MSPs to consider his position on discredited Police watchdog

18 May

Police Watchdog boss Andrew Flanagan refused calls to step down. THE CHAIR of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has rejected calls from MSPs to consider his position on the discredited Police watchdog – and step aside – at a hearing at the Scottish Parliament earlier today.

During the evidence session of the Justice Committee’s sub committee on Policing on Thursday afternoon, SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan rejected several calls to step down from his lead of the scandal hit SPA – while also facing mounting criticism of his handling of governance decisions at the organisation in charge of overseeing Police Scotland.

Responding to calls from several members of the Committee that he consider his position, Mr Flanagan said: “I have reflected very seriously on the views expressed by parliamentarians and other stakeholders. In reflecting on the last two years, I believe there is more that I have got right than I have got wrong, on strategy, on clarity and control, on refreshed leadership for policing and on many other aspects.

Desperate to retain his position as Chair of the SPA, Flanagan claimed he still had potential to offer the Scottish Police Authority.

Mr Flanagan continued: “I acknowledge my recent mistakes, and you have rightly taken me to task for them. But I hope to be judged also on the significant progress achieved and the leadership potential I can still offer.”

Despite the furore over Flanagan’s conduct and the diminishing reputation of the SPA, Flanagan claimed Policing in Scotland benefited from the SPA and that he had the support of his board – which now faces calls for a clean sweep of members.

Flanagan said: “Policing is in a much better position than it was, but there is still a huge amount to do. I believe now is not the time for yet another change of leadership in what will be a pivotal and challenging next three years for policing in Scotland. I have discussed this with my board and I have their unanimous support.”

Watch today’s full Justice sub committee on Policing here:

Justice Sub-Committee on Policing – Scottish Parliament: 18th May 2017

Much of the Justice Committee’s criticism of Mr Flanagan and his handling of governance at the SPA stems from his treatment of former board member Moi Ali, who resigned after clashing with the chairman over board meetings being held behind closed doors.

She told MSPs that she felt she had been bullied, describing her exit from the board as “a really horrendous experience” and saying Mr Flanagan was “not fit to continue on any public board”.

The public audit committee said Mr Flanagan had acted in an “inappropriate matter”, and said the “default position for such an important body is that its committees should meet in public”.

Mr Flanagan told MSPs that he had written to Ms Ali to apologise, saying his approach was a matter of “bitter regret” and a “misjudgement”. He said she had been “right in raising substantive concerns about transparency”, adding: “I was wrong.”

He subsequently confirmed he had sent the letter of apology on Tuesday – days after the critical report from the public audit committee.

However, it was revealed during the evidence session by Moi Ali posted on twitter that she had received it via email “only after I suggested legal action and issued an ultimatum”.

The letter of apology sent by Mr Flanagan had in fact only been sent to Ms Ali today, Thursday.

Mr Flanagan said that in light of the committee’s report: “I have to accept that I was wrong.”

Justice Committee members were highly critical of Mr Flanagan during the meeting, with MSP Stewart Stevenson quoting the situation with regard to his own resignation as transport minister in 2010.

Mr Stevenson said: “The biggest of people will always put the interests of the organisation of which they are part above their personal considerations should they be part of the decision-making. I simply invite you to take the same position as I took in 2010.”

This latest Holyrood hearing on difficulties at the Scottish Police Authority comes in the wake of investigations by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLS) which has heard evidence on the lack of transparency at the top of the SPA and Flanagan’s treatment of former board member Moi Ali, who resigned after raising concerns about private meetings and a lack of transparency.

Watch the PAPLS Committee hearing of 11 May here:

Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 11th May 2017

The full transcript of the hearing can be viewed here: Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee 11 May 2017

Last week at the PAPLS committee, former SPA Board member Moi Ali described Mr Flanagan as “…not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values” .

In an exchange between Monica Lennon MSP and the former SPA board member, Ms Lennon asked: “Given the letter and what you have just said about feeling bullied, do you think that Andrew Flanagan is fit to continue as chair of the Scottish Police Authority?”

In her response, Moi Ali gave a highly critical account of the SPA Chair’s position, stating : “I am afraid that I do not. He is actually not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values. However, the Scottish Police Authority is in a different league, because an oversight body that oversees policing has to set even higher standards of corporate governance, and he has clearly not observed those standards.”

A full report on the PAPLS hearing of 11 May can be found here: UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog

During the stormy evidence session with MSPs, Andrew Flanagan, chairman of the Scottish Police Authority was also forced to admit he withheld from colleagues a letter which criticised plans to hold board committee meetings in private – leading to accusations the chairman was treating board members “like infants”.

The earlier PAPLS Committee session on 20 April also heard animated exchanges between Former Cabinet Secretary & Committee member Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) and SPA Chairman Andrew Flanagan –  who was accused of running the Police Watchdog as a “secret society”.

Watch the PAPLS Committee session of 20 April here:

Scottish Police Authority – Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 20th April 2017

The full transcript of the meeting has now been published, available here: Official Report: Public Audit & Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee 20 April 2017

During questions put to SPA Chief Andrew Flanagan, Chief Executive John Foley, and representatives of the Scottish Government, Alex Neil said: “This is not the Kremlin you are running, it is supposed to be an open public body. We have this secret society … inside the board … deciding on transparency of governance and the whole thing is done without public knowledge, without people out there being able to hold this board to account.”

Replying to Alex Neil on the matter of not sharing the letter, Mr Flanagan said “I didn’t think it was necessary to circulate the letter itself.”

However – Mr Neil told Mr Flanagan he had breached “every rule in the book” by refusing to share the document with the rest of the SPA Board.

Alex Neil went on to describe the Scottish Police Authority as “a shambles”.

A full report on the PAPLS meeting of 20 April can be found here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority – Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator

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