• STV
  • MySTV

Sturgeon and Davidson clash over justice secretary

Party leaders met at FMQs in the wake of chief constable Phil Gormley's departure.

FMQs: Sturgeon took questions from MSPs on Thursday.
FMQs: Sturgeon took questions from MSPs on Thursday. PA

Scottish party leaders have clashed over the conduct of the justice secretary in the wake of the resignation of Phil Gormley as Police Scotland's chief constable.

Gormley's decision to quit on Wednesday in the face of five separate misconduct allegations against him means Scotland's national police force is seeking a third chief in five years.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for intervening in a decision last year by the former chairman of Scotland's police watchdog to reinstate Gormley.

Speaking at First Minister's Questions on Thursday, Ruth Davidson also highlighted Matheson's role in appointing the new chairwoman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Susan Deacon in November.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1402352-ex-health-minister-susan-deacon-to-lead-police-authority/ | default

The Scottish Conservative leader said it was an "obvious flaw" to have the minister in charge of the appointment process for the independent police oversight body.

Scottish Labour's Richard Leonard reiterated previous opposition calls for Matheson to leave his post, asking Nicola Sturgeon if she would "find a new justice secretary".

The First Minister defended Matheson's actions related to the departed Police Scotland chief, saying that he behaved "entirely appropriately" and asked questions of the SPA's process which "could not be answered".

Andrew Flanagan, then-chairman of the SPA, had attempted in November 2017 to have the former chief constable return to active duty.

Gormley had been on special leave from September until his resignation from the force.

https://stv.tv/news/features/1407872-sorry-affair-rise-and-fall-of-chief-constable-phil-gormley/ | default

Matheson met Flanagan, who also quit his role following previous claims of misconduct, to ask if proper procedure had been followed in the decision to reinstate the chief constable.

After that, the decision was reversed.

Opposition parties have claimed this amounts to potentially unlawful ministerial meddling in a nominally independent body, an accusation Matheson strongly rejects.

Davidson said the Scottish Parliament should be in charge of senior appointments to the SPA, as it is for a number of other statutory watchdogs, rather than the justice secretary.

She told the First Minister the current arrangement was not "true independence", adding: "As this affair has shown us, that same justice secretary can pull the head of the Scottish Police Authority into a room and make him change his mind."

Davidson continued: "If the First Minister is serious about strengthening the structure and oversight of the single police force then having its chair appointed by parliament and not at the grace of ministers ... is a good place to start."

Sturgeon said primary legislation would be needed to do that, with the Tory leader responded: "Guess what First Minister, this is a parliament - changing the law is what we do."

The First Minister said new SPA chairwoman was "doing an excellent job", adding: " I think we should get behind her in that.

"I think we should consider in the fullness of time before we come to appoint a new chair, whether there is changes necessary."

'Since 2015 two chief constables have gone, morale amongst rank-and-file officers has sunk, public confidence has declined, and all the time the First Minister refuses to take responsibility.'
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

Leonard urged Sturgeon to consider the findings of a Labour review of policing led by former MSP and ex-police officer Graeme Pearson.

The 2015 report made ten recommendations including improved parliamentary oversight and staffing support.

He said: "Week after week the First Minister stands up in this chamber and demands solutions from opposition parties, solutions to problems which her government has created in the first place.

"Labour offered ten but her justice secretary ignored them.

"Since then two chief constables have gone, morale amongst rank-and-file officers has sunk, public confidence has declined, and all the time the First Minister refuses to take responsibility."

He added: "Will she look again at the recommendations of the Pearson review and will she find a new justice secretary to deliver them?"

Sturgeon responded: "There has been a governance review under way, that will report shortly and all of us right across the Parliament can consider any proposals and suggestions that come forward as part of that."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.