Complaints, investigations and misconduct in policing in Scotland ministerial group minutes: December 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 7 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Keith Brown, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, Joint Chair
  • Martyn Evans, SPA Chair
  • Chris Brown, SPA Deputy Chief Executive
  • Stephen McGowan, Deputy Crown Agent
  • Craig Naylor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland
  • Michelle Macleod, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • Fiona Taylor QPM, Deputy Chief Constable, Professionalism, Strategy and Engagement 
  • Catriona Henderson, Chief Superintendent, Professionalism and Assurance

Supporting officials

  • Anna Stansfield, Head of Police Conduct Bill Unit
  • Catherine MacIntyre, Team Lead, Police Conduct Bill Unit
  • Natalina Romano, Policy Officer, Police Conduct Bill Unit


  • Rt Hon Dorothy Bain KC, Lord Advocate (Joint Chair)
  • Sir Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable, Police Scotland
  • Lynn Brown, SPA Chief Executive

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, Keith Brown, welcomed everyone to the fifth meeting of the Ministerial Group.  

Mr Brown reflected that it was now 2 years since Dame Elish published her final report and congratulated partners on the progress made to date which would be bolstered by improvements to the legislative framework governing complaints, investigations and misconduct.  

Related to this, the Cabinet Secretary noted that the report of the responses to the public consultation which will help to inform development of the new Bill, had recently been published and he had been pleased to see a number of responses from individuals and organisations representing those with lived experience.  While improvements were needed, the Cabinet Secretary said he believed that current systems remained fundamentally sound; the Bill would strengthen frameworks and structures already in place and put good practice into statute.  Officials would continue to engage with partner organisations and wider stakeholders to understand current practices and the implications of any proposals to deliver new powers and revise existing legislation.  

The Cabinet Secretary made one final point in relation to recently published reviews by Baroness Casey and HMICFRS  - both of which were of relevance to the improvements we were seeking to make.  Mr Brown confirmed that he had asked Officials to review the recommendations from these reviews and to engage with partner organisations to ensure that we take on board any learning and continue to be on the front foot in our own programme of reform.


Apologies were submitted as noted above.

Summary Minute and Action Log from the previous meeting held on 7 June 2021

Summary minute (approval for publication)

Ministerial Group members were advised that no comments had been made in connection with the draft minute in advance of the meeting.  

With no comments being raised at the meeting, Ministerial Group members agreed to APPROVE the minute as an accurate record of the last meeting and noted that it would now be published on the Scottish Government website.

Action log (approval)

Ministerial Group members confirmed that Action 220607-MG-01 should be closed and, on that basis, agreed to approve the action log.

Decisions taken since last meeting 

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed for record purposes and transparency that, in the last governance and reporting cycle in September, the Ministerial Group had approved by correspondence:

Revisions to the Ministerial Group Terms of Reference and  the following recommendations for sign off as completed:

  • PR3 - Police Scotland to consider employing more non police officer support staff in PSD.  This is an option that Police Scotland may wish to ask HMICS to review.  
  • PR17 - Training for complaints and conduct officers in SPA to be consolidated to ensure up to date knowledge of complaint handling best practice
  • R16 - More diverse panels for disciplinary hearings
  • R59 - SPA to confirm in its annual report whether or not the Chief Constable has suitable complaint handling arrangements in place
  • R61 - Police Scotland and the PIRC to consider drawing on expertise of Audit Scotland and SPSO in redesigning the  audit arrangements for police complaints.
  • R66 - All Police Scotland officers and staff to receive training on unconscious bias, equality legislation and diversity with refresher courses
  • R78 - Chief Constable to publish annually Police Scotland's performance in handling complaints against timescales in statutory guidance

Assurance Report including Draft Thematic Progress Report (approval for publication)

Assurance report

The Cabinet Secretary summarised the key items of note within the Assurance Report, including the approvals being asked of the Ministerial Group, and invited comments from members.  Deputy Chief Constable, Fiona Taylor, asked for a small amendment to be made on page 29, paragraph 3, before the Thematic Progress Report is published.  DCC Taylor explained that the word ‘constables’ should be replaced by ‘sergeants’.  The Cabinet Secretary asked Officials to ensure that the amendment was made as follows:

Action 221207-MG 01

Officials to ensure that the relevant section within the Thematic Progress Report in relation to R11 is amended to read:  In addition to the rank ratios work, there are two further actions that will support the full implementation of this recommendation once complete.  The first is to undertake a training needs analysis of core line manager skills for both newly and recently promoted Sergeants and consider a refresh of such for officers already in the rank.  The second is that the Local Policing Service Delivery Review Team are to undertake a more detailed review of workload, role profile and skills of the frontline Sergeant.  (Note: The amendment was made to the report and accuracy confirmed with Police Scotland on 8.12.22)

There being no further comments on the Assurance Report, the Ministerial Group approved non-legislative recommendations 17, 42, 64 and preliminary recommendation 24 for sign off as completed.

The Cabinet Secretary added that, as he had commented previously, the overall impact of the work done to implement recommendations would require testing at some point in the future to determine if the intended outcome and improvement had been achieved.  Whilst recognising the need for continuous review and improvement, the progress that had been made thus far was, nonetheless, a major achievement by all those involved.

Thematic progress report

The Cabinet Secretary then turned to the Thematic Progress Report and the section in relation to international scrutiny committees which fulfilled a previous commitment made to give greater visibility on progress made in shared areas of concern where there is clear alignment with recommendations made by Dame Elish.  Mr Brown hoped that Ministerial Group members shared his view that this demonstrated the further commitment by partners to ensure that policing operations respect the rights of all people and officers which is one of the principles that Dame Elish explicitly recommends should underpin the complaints system.  The Cabinet Secretary also referred to having recently attended an Oath of Office ceremony in Tulliallan where officers explicitly commit to upholding human rights as part of the ceremony.  Mr Brown believed that human rights was also central to everything done by the Chief Constable and his leadership team.

Returning to the report itself, the Cabinet Secretary noted that partner organisations had previously reviewed the draft Thematic Progress Report through the Practitioner Working Group and Strategic Oversight Group.  

There being no further comments, the Ministerial Group approved the fourth Thematic Progress Report for publication on the Scottish Government website week commencing 12 December.

Any other business

There was no other business raised.

Date of next meeting

The Cabinet Secretary advised that Officials would be in touch with Ministerial Group members in the New Year with proposed meeting dates for 2023.

Closing remarks

The Cabinet Secretary commented that the next phase of bringing forward new legislation would undoubtedly attract attention as the Bill progressed through Parliament.  In the meantime, Mr Brown thanked partners for all the work done on the non-legislative recommendations which, together with new legislation, would ensure greater fairness for all those involved and be clear about the standards we expect from our police officers.  

The Cabinet Secretary closed the meeting by wishing everyone a good break over the Festive Season.

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