Police Scotland review 'would create unwanted uncertainty'

Justice secretary rejects calls by the Lib Dems to establish a commission.

Police Scotland: The justice secretary said the force is 'performing well'. STV

Establishing a commission to examine Police Scotland's managerial structure would create unwanted "uncertainty", the justice secretary has said.

Michael Matheson defended the force at Holyrood on Wednesday during a debate on a motion of no confidence in the organisation's structure put forward by the Liberal Democrats.

The debate comes during a time of disruption for Police Scotland, with chief constable Phil Gormley on special leave since September after a number of complaints were made regarding his conduct.

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In addition to Mr Gormley's absence, assistant constable Bernard Higgins and three other officers were suspended last month over a number of "anonymous allegations of criminality".

Both Mr Higgins and Mr Gormley deny any wrongdoing.

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Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur described Police Scotland as "an organisation in financial distress operating in a structure that is not fit for purpose".

McArthur attributed the problems facing the force currently to its creation by the Scottish Government in 2013.

"The root of the problems can indeed be traced back very directly to the legislation driven through this parliament by the then justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, a man quite happy to do the wrong thing for the right reason," said McArthur.

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He continued later: "Add to that a single police authority, the body tasked with overseeing the new force, which appeared unclear of its responsibilities, largely dysfunctional and prone to a culture of secrecy.

"Is it any wonder then we have seen the problems we have over the last five years?"

Matheson rejected the Lib Dems' call for a review commission as it would create "uncertainty".

He said: "The choice faced in creating Police Scotland was one of transforming to protect the frontline, or allowing the frontline to wither due to austerity.

"I remain in no doubt we have chosen the right course. I recognise that major reform always brings challenges. Nevertheless, policing in Scotland continues to perform well."

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