Complaints, investigations and misconduct in policing in Scotland Ministerial Group minutes: 17 June 2021

Minutes from the second meeting of the Ministerial Group on 17 June 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Joint Chairs

  • Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, Keith Brown MSP
  • Solicitor General, Alison Di Rollo, QC


  • Lynn Brown, SPA Chief Executive
  • Martyn Evans, SPA Chair
  • Stephen McGowan, Deputy Crown Agent
  • Gill Imery, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary
  • Michelle Macleod, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • Fiona Taylor, Deputy Chief Constable, People and Professionalism
  • Alan Speirs, Assistant Chief Constable, Professionalism and Assurance
  • Supporting officials: Anita Popplestone, Head of Police Complaints and Scrutiny Unit
  • Neil Hastie, Head of Community Safety
  • Catherine MacIntyre, Police Complaints and Scrutiny Unit
  • Justin Farrell, Head of CAAPD, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service


  • Lord Advocate, James Wolffe, QC
  • David Harvie, Crown Agent
  • Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable, Police Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans opened by welcoming everyone to the second meeting of the Ministerial Group. 


Apologies were submitted as noted above.

Before moving onto the other items of business, the Cabinet Secretary expressed his gratitude to the Lord Advocate and thanked partners for their commitment to working collaboratively on the improvement recommendations flowing from Dame Elish Angiolini’s Review. 

With the continued Parliamentary interest, Mr Brown said that the “do nothing” option would rarely be acceptable to Parliament or the wider public, but Scottish Government would continue to work with partners to ensure the best outcome is delivered and avoid unintended consequences. 

He was also aware that approaches taken in other jurisdictions would not always be appropriate, but he wanted to take the best of learning and practice elsewhere and apply or adapt it in a way that suited the Scottish context. There were real opportunities to improve the current framework and underpin our shared commitment to human rights of all involved.

Summary minute of previous meeting held on 11 March 2021 for approval and subsequent publication

The summary minute of the previous meeting was approved for publication on the Scottish Government website.

Review of actions

One action was proposed for Closure (210311-MG-01) and two were proposed as Ongoing (210311-MG-02 and 210311-MG‑03). 

The Solicitor General referred to MG-03 in connection with the Cross Border issue which was raised by the Crown Agent at the last meeting. The Cabinet Secretary acknowledged the importance of addressing the gap in the current legislative framework and understood the desire to resolve it before COP26. However, the UK Government had previously indicated that there was no possibility of changing legislation before COP26.

The Deputy Crown Agent proposed that further clarification be obtained from the UKG that legislation before COP26 was not feasible. The Cabinet Secretary agreed to write to the Home Secretary requesting that the UK Government clarifies its position in writing. The letter would be circulated to MG members.

Action 210617-MG 01: SG officials to draft a letter for the Cabinet Secretary to send to the Home Office requesting that the UK Government clarifies its position in writing with regard to the timescales for making the required changes in reserved legislation. The letter will be circulated to Ministerial Group (MG) members.

MG members agreed the status of the action log as proposed.

Reflections since March meeting

The Cabinet Secretary referred to the busy legislative programme with 22 separate pieces of legislation within the justice portfolio - this included the Bill required to implement a number of recommendations flowing from the Dame Elish Angiolini Review. He noted the planned engagement with the Scottish Police Consultative Forum and evidence gathering on the effectiveness of reforms that have taken place in England and Wales. Mr Brown reiterated that wherever possible, we should be seeking to address the recommendations, either as set out by Dame Elish or through alternative options that will deliver improved outcomes, being clear on the rationale for doing so. 

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

The Solicitor General confirmed that new law officers would be fully briefed and, in due course, would support the group at future meetings. 

The Deputy Crown Agent confirmed that the Crown Office was on track with work relating to the 4 recommendations on which they lead. He noted there was a spirit of co‑operation amongst partners and working relationships at all levels had improved.

Justin Farrell, Head of CAAP-D, referred to the 4 recommendations where COPFS is directly responsible and noted there were many others where they will contribute because of the Lord Advocate’s responsibilities. None of the 4 COPFS led recommendations required legislation and Mr Farrell was confident that 2 could be signed off as having been completed. Work continued to be progressed in respect of the other 2 recommendations.

Police Scotland

Deputy Chief Constable, Fiona Taylor, confirmed Police Scotland’s ongoing commitment to collaborative working and, through Assistant Chief Constable, Alan Speirs and his team, would work effectively with partners to move recommendations forward. DCC Taylor referred to 3 key points:

  • with regard to recommendation 18 (Independent review of equality matters within Police Scotland), the recently established Independent Review Group (IRG) would provide independent scrutiny and challenge, and report publicly to the SPA Board. The IRG held its first meeting on 25 May and is now determining appointment of its independent chair and finalising its terms of reference.
  • Police Scotland has invested in resources and established a new national model for complaints handling within Professional Standards – under ACC Speirs’ direction – and this is being supported by a programme of training, including such matters as unconscious bias which is specifically referred to in recommendation 66
  • there are 30 recommendations where Police Scotland leads. Significant work has been taken forward on those recommendations, with 10 proposed for sign off and work continuing with partners on the remaining 20. 


The SPA Chair, Martyn Evans, endorsed the strategic importance of implementing the recommendations; public confidence would be enhanced and there was also a duty of care for those working in SPA and Police Scotland.

In terms of progress, Authority Member, Alasdair Hay had been appointed to chair the SPA Complaints and Conduct Committee and Mr Evans was confident about his leadership on these matters. SPA had also appointed a Deputy Chief Executive Chris Brown who would be leading on complaints and conduct issues within the SPA executive team.

Mr Evans noted that co-operation from Police Scotland and PIRC had been positive and mutually supportive. SPA was attempting to increase pace and decision-making in its processes, and improve transparency for greater public assurance. There are also plans in place to include assurance and a review of SPA complaints handling processes in next year’s Annual Report and Accounts.


The Commissioner advised that PIRC was leading on 16 recommendations some of which were included in the report for sign off at today’s meeting and others would be coming forward to the next meeting. Ms Macleod echoed previous comments about the collaboration and positive approach from partners to drive recommendations forward. She also commented on a useful presentation from Police Scotland on recommendation 18 and explained how PIRC is linking in with a number of strands of EDI (equality diversity and inclusion) work to progress recommendations. Other PIRC recommendations would feature in the forthcoming public consultation and legislation.


Ms Imery confirmed that there were 2 recommendations specifically for HMICS. She also referred to recommendation 18 where Dame Elish had asked that cognisance is taken of HMICS Training and Development Inspection. This work is ongoing and will be reporting in due course. 

Ms Imery also said that HMICS has active interest in the overall progress being made by both Police Scotland and SPA and is pleased to be part of this group and the other groups in the governance framework.

Governance and reporting update

Recommendations proposed for sign off (approval)

The Cabinet Secretary asked if MG members were content to approve the recommendations proposed for sign off.

MG members approved sign off of 19 recommendations as submitted in the paper.

Assurance Report and First Thematic Progress Report (approval for publication)

The Cabinet Secretary asked if MG members were content to approve the first thematic progress report for publication on the Scottish Government website.

MG members approved the first thematic progress report for publication on the Scottish Government website.


No other business was raised.

Date of next meeting

Scottish Government officials will liaise with Private Offices and advise the date of the next meeting in due course. It is anticipated the next meeting will take place towards end November / early December 2021.

Closing remarks

In his closing remarks, the Cabinet Secretary thanked the Solicitor General for her diligence, work and commitment during her term in office.

The Cabinet Secretary wished Ms Di Rollo all the very best for the future.

Read the minutes from the Ministerial Group meeting on Complaints, Investigations and Misconduct in Policing in Scotland, held on 11 March 2021

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