Thank you Presiding Officer. I am grateful for the opportunity to update Parliament on leadership in Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority following the announcement last week that the Chief Constable is to take a temporary leave of absence until investigations into his conduct conclude.
I recognise that these investigations and his absence will create a degree of uncertainty. I am therefore pleased that Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has reconsidered his plans to retire in the autumn and will continue in post to provide leadership to Police Scotland in the Chief Constable's absence.
DCC Livingstone, Police Scotland's Deputy Chief Constable Designate, has over 25 years' experience in policing and is held in high regard by officers of all ranks. As DCC designate, he has all the powers of the Chief Constable during his absence. DCC Livingstone is one of a number of experienced officers in Police Scotland's team, including DCC Rose Fitzpatrick who celebrated 30 years in policing last week, serving three different Forces.
More recent appointments, such as DCC Johnny Gwynne and Deputy Chief Officer David Page, have further boosted the capacity and capability of Police Scotland's senior management team and all eight Assistant Chief Constable appointments are currently filled.
DCC Livingstone's own assessment of the leadership situation is that Police Scotland has a strong and resilient command team in place who are supported by thousands of dedicated and hard-working police officers and staff who remain committed to providing an excellent service.
This is my own assessment that the success of Police Scotland does not rely on one individual, but on a strong and experienced senior leadership team and on the professionalism and dedication of many thousands of police officers and staff at all levels. Police Scotland, as the second biggest force in the UK, has a breadth and depth of experience that is almost unparalleled.
Presiding Officer, let me now turn to the complaints that have been made against the Chief Constable. I am sure that members will understand that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the specifics of any complaints while independent investigations are ongoing.
I respect the Chief Constable's decision to request a temporary leave of absence while the matters are being investigated and that the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) agreed to his request.
There is a clear process in place, through the Police Service of Scotland (Senior Officers) (Conduct) Regulations 2013, to handle these complaints, and it is important that this is able to take its course. The Chief Constable has confirmed that he will co-operate fully with the process. I would urge all members to show restraint and avoid making assumptions about what the investigations may find or conclude.
I also want to reassure Parliament in light of recent commentary that I do not see any immediate impact on the programme to integrate the British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland. That programme is being led by the Scottish and UK Governments through a joint programme board that includes a wide range of organisations with a role in delivery.
Work within Police Scotland has been taken forward under the leadership of Assistant Chief Constable Higgins and they are currently in the process of strengthening their programme management arrangements.
The proposed date for integration is April 2019 and I see it as very premature to suggest that there will be any impact on that timetable.
As you will be aware, two key changes are taking place within the Scottish Police Authority's senior leadership. Andrew Flanagan will leave his role as SPA Chair once his successor has been appointed and that process is well underway. The post was advertised on 21 August and applications close on 21 September. Interviews are scheduled to take place in October and I would aim to make an announcement as soon as possible after that.
The fact that the Chair has agreed to stay until a successor is appointed, and the creation of the SPA Deputy Chair role, which is being ably filled by Nicola Marchant, will help to ensure there is a smooth transition to the new Chair and that there is no gap in leadership. The wider Board contains a range of expertise and experience that is ensuring business continues to be progressed.
The Chair post is a public appointment and is regulated by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland.
A number of party spokespersons have indicated a desire to play a role in the current appointment round for the Chair of the SPA.
Their preference is for the responsibility for making the appointment to be delegated to Parliament. However, it is a statutory requirement of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act that Scottish Ministers appoint the Chair of the SPA. The situation is not the same as for the post of Scottish Information Commissioner role, where the role of Parliament is set out explicitly in the relevant legislation.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned to some of the party spokespersons last week and as the First Minister stated at First Ministers Questions, the Scottish Government is not unsympathetic to the Parliament's wish to have a role in the appointment of the SPA Chair. I have instructed officials to explore with the office of the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland whether there are any options for involving Parliament in a way that would be compatible with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland. I will be in touch with justice spokespersons within the next few days to discuss what might be possible within the framework of legislation and the Code.
Over the Summer, SPA Chief Executive Officer, John Foley, announced he will be taking early retirement. This follows the Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) review of forensic services and the associated changes being made to that service, which will now report directly to the SPA Board.
The Chief Executive Officer has agreed to remain in post until the completion of the SPA accounts for 2016 to 2017. The SPA has started the process to recruit an interim Chief Officer on a 12-month appointment.
Presiding Officer, Parliament will recall that I have commissioned a review of the Executive of SPA to ensure that the Board is getting the support and advice it needs to fulfil its functions effectively. The review is being led jointly by the SPA Deputy Chair and Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive of the Western Isles Council. The review expects to report later in the autumn. However the interim appointment of the Chief Officer will allow the new Chair of the SPA time to consider the outcome of the review and the second phase of the HMICS Thematic Inspection of the SPA before making a permanent appointment.
Presiding Officer, there will be no gap in SPA leadership. Recruitment is underway for both the Chair and the Chief Executive, the Scottish Government and the SPA are working to clear timescales to make appointments and the current Chair has agreed to remain in post until a successor is found.
Presiding Officer, let me finish by once again paying tribute to police officers and staff. We have a dedicated workforce that is focused on keeping all of our communities safe, providing an excellent service to the public every day. DCC Livingstone is a very able and experienced officer, who commands the respect of that workforce. He is also part of a strong and resilient leadership team. I am actively working with SPA and Police Scotland to support them through this period and stand ready to help them in any way that I can.
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