Police body may be forced into secret meetings U-turn

Moi Ali (left), Former Board Member and Brian Barbour (right), give evidence on the 2015/16 audit. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Moi Ali (left), Former Board Member and Brian Barbour (right), give evidence on the 2015/16 audit. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

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The body charged with ­overseeing Police Scotland and its £1 billion annual budget could be forced into an embarrassing U-turn over holding meetings in private.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has been widely criticised for last year’s decision to carry out most of its work behind closed doors.

Derek Penman, HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, yesterday told MSPs one ­recommendation of an ongoing review of the SPA by his organisation would be to return the meetings to a public setting.

Members of Holyrood’s audit committee also heard from former board member Moi Ali, who called for current chairman Andrew Flanagan to resign, saying he “is not fit to lead any public body.”

Edinburgh-based consultant Ms Ali, who quit the SPA over the private meetings, and is from an ethnic minority background, said she had been bullied by the current chairman and described as a “one-trick diversity pony” by previous chairman Vic Emery.

Mr Penman said: “I wouldn’t ordinarily pre-empt my review or my recommendations, but it would be unlikely that I won’t be making a recommendation to the chair of the SPA that the board meetings and committee meetings should revert to being held in public and board papers circulated in advance.”

SNP committee member Alex Neil said: “The culture of the SPA is one of secrecy and non-cooperation, which is not acceptable.

“Ever since this board was set up, there have been real problems. There’s clearly a lot more work needed to get the SPA into the position it needs to be to gain the confidence of this parliament and the ­Scottish people.”

Mr Neil said the SPA’s treatment of Ms Ali had done ­“significant damage” which had created a “PR disaster”.

Labour also called for an overhaul of the SPA.

Justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said: “Bringing forward an already planned inspection does not go far enough – we need to see a drastic overhaul of how the SPA is run. There is a growing lack of confidence in the chair of the SPA.”

In a statement, Mr Flanagan 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.”

Mr Neil has previously compared Mr Flanagan’s management style to that of the Soviet Union. He called the organisation a “shambles” and told Flanagan “it is not the Kremlin you are running”.

Since January, the SPA’s four sub-committees have met in private with no agendas, papers or minutes published to the public.