No confidence motion in Police Scotland and SPA to be debated in Holyrood?

An independent commission is being demanded to investigate the “problems in policing” as a troubled national force comes under intense political scrutiny at the highest government level later today.

Dec 6, 2017

An independent commission is being demanded to investigate the “problems in policing” as a troubled national force comes under intense political scrutiny at the highest government level later today. A motion of no confidence in the strategic ability of Police Scotland and its supervisory body – the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – will be debated at Holyrood on Wednesday afternoon (December 6). Liberal Democrats are to raise the issue in parliament, making clear that they “believe that the Scottish Government should take responsibility” for the “bulldozed” creation in 2013 of a single force from eight regional ones. The motion comes as senior figures in government and policing have joined forces to quell the groundswell of opinion over accusations of a leadership crisis at the top of Police Scotland. Scotland`s top officer, Chief Constable Phil Gormley, was placed on “special leave” in September amid allegations of gross misconduct, including claims of bullying. The claims are being looked at by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner. Last month Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins was one of four officers suspended pending investigations after “a number of criminal and misconduct allegations” were made. They also include the head and deputy head of armed policing. Mr Gormley and Mr Higgins deny any wrongdoing. New SPA chair, Susan Deacon, is just 48 hours into the role – the former Labour health minister succeeded Andrew Flanagan who quit as SPA chairman following concerns over governance and transparency at the organisation. The Liberal Democrat motion states: “The Parliament does not have confidence in the structure of both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to deliver resilient and accountable policing at a strategic level.” Party justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: “Police officers and staff work incredibly hard, day in day out, protecting our communities. “I know many look on in disbelief at what is going on at the top. They have been left to make the best of a bad job following the SNP’s botched centralisation.” Mr McArthur added: “We have heard promises of a reset before. There is no escaping the fact, however, that the current policing structures are not fit for purpose. “With a budget black hole, failing IT and a forced merger with the British Transport Police on the horizon, we need to see a fundamental change. “Parliament has a legitimate role in setting out the structures of policing in Scotland. The SNP Government bulldozed through flawed proposals when it centralised the police. “Having lost their majority, SNP ministers must now provide an opportunity for the damage to be undone with the help of an independent expert commission.” However, Acting Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said he had “absolute confidence” in the force’s staff and leadership, calling for policing in Scotland to return to being an “apolitical public service” with less political interference. He added: “It would be helpful if issues around government policy and the political debate that goes on in Scotland, if policing wasn`t part of that. “This is clearly a challenging time for policing in Scotland and my focus continues to be on meeting the operational and organisational challenges we face, and providing the leadership of policing that the people of Scotland rightly expect,” he said. An SPA spokesperson said the authority would not comment ahead of the debate, reflecting that it is “more of a matter” for the Scottish government to react to. On Tuesday night, new SPA chair Susan Deacon posted a ‘welcome’ message on the authority’s website, promising to foster a “working together” relationship to “accelerate improvement, and to build trust and confidence” within policing in Scotland. “This approach is one part of helping to turn the SPA outwards to the people and interests it is there to serve,” Ms Deacon added, as she prepares for her first public meeting of the authority on December 1

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