Andrew Flanagan remarks to Justice sub-committee on policing

Published

SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan's opening statement to Justice Sub-committee on Policing

Thank you Convener. I recognise that opening remarks is an exception rather than the rule and I appreciate the courtesy.

We should today be discussing matters of direction, sustainability, and transformation in policing.

That we are not is in large part down to me. And in particular my approach to two letters – one I sent and one I did not.

First, my treatment of Moi Ali.

I greatly regret the timing, tone and content of my initial letter to her. It was a misjudgement to send a letter rather than open up a conversation. And I bitterly regret that I was subsequently unable to allay her concerns so she could continue as a board colleague.

She was right in raising the substantive concerns she had about transparency and perception, and she did so in a manner that was entirely consistent with her role as a public board member. I was wrong and it is important that I today set the public record straight on that.

I have now written to her and offered my full and unreserved personal apology.

Second, let me turn to the letter I did not send - namely views from HMICS on certain aspects of governance around committees and advance papers.

Having contacted the Chief Inspector to identify his concerns, I felt his letter captured views already expressed rather than injecting views that were new. These views had already been discussed openly with board members.

I recognise that HMICS, and indeed Audit Scotland, are not simply stakeholders. I have now put in place an automatic process that every formal communication sent to me by them will be circulated to all board members, unless otherwise stipulated by the sender. I have also instituted a review to ensure there are no other such issues.

Further, I am keen to address any perception that the Chair could be viewed as a gatekeeper on advice to the board, or that a board member might feel constrained in raising an issue of concern directly with the Chair.

I have therefore decided that it would be useful as envisioned in the legislation that the SPA board look to appoint a Deputy Chair of the SPA at its next meeting and we have initiated a process to identify nominees. An important consideration will be to have a gender balance across these two chairing roles.

Third, the underlying issue of public and private SPA meetings.

We sought to improve communications between Police Scotland and the Authority by having more discussions in private, and counterbalancing that by moving all decisions to the board meetings in public.

In recent months there have been significant improvements in the information submitted to us, it is better presented, and relationships have continued to improve and mature.

So next week, we can agree to adapt our approach.

The board and its committees will meet in public, while retaining the need to hold some items in private where necessary.

Papers will be published well in advance of meetings, and to everyone.

As a new step the public will get opportunities to contribute comments and questions for use in the public meetings – offering participation in SPA oversight not just observation.

And we will consider any further recommendations on improving openness that come from the HMICS inspection due at the end of June.

Finally, I have been considering my own position as Chair. I have reflected very seriously on the views expressed by Parliamentarians and other stakeholders.

In reflecting on the last two years, there is more that I have got right than wrong –
on strategy, on financial clarity and control, on refreshed leadership for policing and on many other aspects.

I acknowledge my recent mistakes and you have rightly taken me to task for them. But I hope to be judged also on the significant progress achieved, and the leadership potential I still have to offer.

Policing is in a much better position than it was, but there is a huge amount still to do.

Now is not the time for yet another change of leadership in what will be a pivotal and challenging next three years for policing in Scotland. I have discussed this with my board and I have their unanimous support. I hope I can develop a broader consensus in the coming months.

Thank you.