A gift that keeps giving
As the Scottish government stands accused of racism over the treatment of the Police Scotland chief constable, Kenny MacAskill argues that senior police leaders from England have always been welcomed but warns that the furore is likely to continue.
As the Scottish government stands accused of racism over the treatment of the Police Scotland chief constable, Kenny MacAskill argues that senior police leaders from England have always been welcomed but warns that the furore is likely to continue. Police Scotland has been beset by a few tragic errors and beleaguered by ongoing internal strife. But, the appointment of a new chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and a popular senior deputy acting as chief constable seemed to herald a fresh start. However, Police Scotland remains the gift that keeps on giving for the Scottish media. No sooner had those steps been taken than new issues arose from a variety of angles and drawing in new accused. First, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson was implicated, having previously managed to stay above the fray. He was accused of directing the former chair of the SPA to withdraw an invitation for Chief Constable Phil Gormley, currently on special leave, to return to work. That decision to have the chief resume command was made before all investigations had been concluded into the allegations against him. Moreover, without either checking with the Police Investigation and Review Commissioner (PIRC) or even notifying the senior command team of his impending return. On hearing of this, it seems, the minister met with the former chair and advised him of his concerns about the lack of due process. As Police Scotland and its supervisory authority are constituted, a direct order would be beyond the ministers powers. The meeting was unminuted, which has caused outrage among some in the press corps where freedom of information offers a dripping roast of stories. However, it appears most likely that the minister simply voiced his concerns and the chair agreed to reconsider, which he subsequently did. No formal direction was given though the former chair would have been left in no doubt as to the governments displeasure. Hence, why no formal minute would be retained. But, doing nothing was hardly an option for the minister. As he said in a statement that he was required to make to Parliament, he felt obliged to act given the obvious failures in process. In that he was undoubtedly right, though it neither stopped criticism of him personally or the spotlight once again falling on the service. That was then followed by a suggestion in a tabloid paper by Mr Gormleys wife that her husbands travails were due to his English ethnicity. It was surprising in many ways and most certainly is without foundation. Officers from England, and indeed Northern Ireland, constitute at least half the senior command team, as colleagues have given exemplary service in Scottish constabularies through the years. From Rose Fitzpatrick and Johnny Gwynne, as current deputy chief constables, through the likes of Sir Paddy Tomkins in the past who was even Her Majestys Inspector of Constabulary, as well as chief constable at Lothian and Borders, they have come and served with distinction. Even Sir Stephen House, who established the current Police Scotland set up and had been chief constable at Strathclyde, though actually born in Scotland had grown up in England. There he had joined the police ranks and most folk thought of him as English, as indeed he no doubt did himself. But, his ethnicity was never an issue, even when rumblings were occurring in the ranks it was opposition to his orders not his origins. The story was splashed in a tabloid newspaper not noted for its support for migrants, never mind generosity of spirit to immigrants. Any officer from England, Wales, Northern Ireland or indeed anywhere interested in a career north of the border need have no fears. My experience is that officers of all ranks who have moved here have been welcomed and indeed given great service to their adopted home. Exactly the same as Scots who have served in constabularies elsewhere have invariably been welcomed. Sporting rivalry there may be, racism there most certainly is not. Finally, Moi Ali, a former member of the SPA board, criticised