Scottish Policing Governance Roundtable meeting: 11 March 2020

Meeting note and workplan of the Scottish Policing Governance Roundtable meeting held on 11 March 2020.

Attendees and apologies

  • Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Chair)
  • Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland
  • Gill Imery, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland
  • David Crichton, Vice Chair, Scottish Police Authority
  • Iain Livingstone, the Chief Constable
  • DCC Fiona Taylor, Police Scotland
  • Michelle Macleod, Police Investigations & Review Commissioner
  • Paul Johnston, Director General, Education, Communities and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Gillian Russell, Director of Safer Communities, Scottish Government
  • Clare Hicks, Deputy Director and Head of Police Division, Scottish Government
  • Murray McVicar and Laura Stewart, Scottish Government Police Division (note)

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary opened the meeting, stating that he had committed to the Board of SPA to bring the relevant partners in the policing landscape together to discuss the governance of policing in Scotland.  He reminded colleagues that the outcomes of three independent scrutiny exercises have been published over the past 12 months:

  • The Justice Committee of the Parliament’s report on its post-legislative scrutiny of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 (published March 2019)
  • The HMICS Thematic Review of the Scottish Police Authority (published September 2019)
  • The Auditor General’s report on the 2018/19 audit of the Scottish Police Authority (published December 2019)

Given this, he made clear his view that he believed that the policing system in Scotland is not in need of a wholescale review, but that he recognised the calls by the Auditor General ad HMICS for greater clarity around roles and responsibilities within the system.

He invited each member of the group to provide their initial thoughts.

Caroline Gardner, Auditor General

AGS has been reporting on policing since the formation of the SPA and Police Scotland in 2013.  While recognising the success of the smooth merger of eight forces into one, there have clearly been challenges around the number of Chief Constables, Chairs and Chief Executives.  Her most recent Section 22 report on the SPA (December 2019) reflects her view that there remains some confusion and disagreement about roles and responsibilities, which are relevant to all the partners in the system.  She made clear that she did not see any need for an existential review, and flagged that HMICS, the Justice Committee, Dame Angiolini all confirmed the fundamental principles to be right.

She believes that there are remaining issues around the capacity of the Authority to hold Police Scotland to account, given that so much knowledge and expertise lies in Police Scotland. Other ongoing issues for consideration include accountable officer role and the role of Parliament.

Gill Imery, HMICS

Ms Imery made clear that the recent HMICS thematic review, while specifically focused on SPA, demonstrated that the 2012 legislation remains sound, and an improvement on some of the arrangements of the predecessor system (Police Boards). The principle of separation of policing and politics is still very important.  There are some challenges in the dual role of SPA as a provider of services (Forensics and Custody Visiting – recommendations 13 and 14 of HMICS report refer) and a scrutiny body for Police Scotland, although she acknowledged that this is not unique to Scotland.  Her main emphasis has been on the different interpretations of roles and responsibilities by successive chairs of the authority.  She emphasised the importance of putting in place the steps to address the recommendations of the HMICS review and the Justice Committee, in particular, HMICS recommendations 3 (executive and non-executive functions of chair and members); 5 (COSLA representative on the SPA board); 6 (accountable officer status), and 12 (scrutiny for policing policy changes which are likely to have an impact on public confidence).

David Crichton, SPA Vice Chair

Mr Crichton emphasised the importance of establishing a sound evidence based to identify if and where any issues exist.  He also stressed that work should be light-touch and recognise that much is already underway and will make improvements in real time, including such as the work plan to implement the HMICS review, the revisions to the Governance and Accountability Framework and the co-opting of a COSLA representative onto the Policing Performance Committee. Care needs to be taken that any work is not perceived as a major ‘review’ which will add confusion in the system, which is working well and where issues are being addressed.

Ian Livingstone, Chief Constable

The Chief Constable argued that the group needs to be clear about what the issue is.  He argued that police system in Scotland is certainly not failing.  He felt there was no lack of scrutiny, governance and accountability –and that there is widespread understanding of what the police do.  Audit Scotland, HMICS, PIRC are all in this space, as well as the SPA (e.g. workforce, ICT and Estates). He felt that there had been recent unfair disproportionate focus on the Authority. The Chief Constable has operational independence, but must also have clear lines of accountability.  SPA has both a scrutiny, and a provider role (Forensics and Custody Visiting Scheme). His view was that there may be worth considering the Accountable Officer status. He agreed that real clarity is needed – the most important issues are public confidence and transparency.  He was clear that relations with partners are better now than at any time in the past, providing a good opportunity to pause and reflect.

Michelle Macleod, PIRC

Ms Macleod acknowledged that there is some duplication and lack of clarity around roles.  From PIRC perspective, these issues are being taken forward through Dame Angiolini’s review and responses to that.

CSJ thanked members for their thoughts.  He was clear that, while a focus on the roles and responsibilities piece is important, it was also necessary to establish whether there are deeper, more systemic questions. He acknowledged that not all the actors within the space are creations of the 2012 Act, most notably the Justice Committee and sub-committee.  Where exactly do roles and responsibilities require to be clarified (and how?)


Clarity of roles and responsibilities

  • There was agreement to undertake work around this, looking at all parts of the system to ensure that the roles as defined in statute are not open to different interpretations as has been the case in the past.  It was also agreed that there was no requirement for a wholescale review of the system.   Any analysis should not risk undermining current good progress.  There is a great deal that has been progressed and work that is currently ongoing.  It was important that the approach should be reasonable and proportionate.  Also that we should be realistic about timeframe and prioritise what needs to be done. Work should be set in the context of a successful, high-performing system.

Accountable Officer role

  • It was agreed that it would be important to explore this, given that there is a tension between the role of the Chief Constable in decision making on resource allocation, and that of the CEO of SPA, who holds the Accountable Officer role.  This was supported by the AGS, HMICS and the Chief Constable.  It was recognised that, if the AO were to sit within Police Scotland, it would create a direct link between the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary as Principle Accountable Officer.  This would fundamentally alter the role and responsibilities of SPA (and would require a legislative change) and could be seen to be at odds with the principles behind the 2012 legislation, i.e. that there should be sufficient distance between Ministers and the national police service.  However this tension has been identified by both Audit Scotland and HMICS and would benefit from thorough consideration.
  • The AGS advised that the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 specifies that there should only be one accountable officer, although that need not necessarily be the head of an organisation, e.g.. Registers of Scotland where The Keeper is not the AO).  At UK level there are two AOs in HMRC – tax and operation of the organisation.
  • Direct accountability to Parliament which is the case for the Auditor General would fundamentally alter the current budget setting process and accountability for policing in Scotland.

Size and capacity of SPA

  • The role of SPA as a provider of services and scrutiny/assurance of Police Scotland was discussed.  It was recognised that some of is a legacy of former SPSA functions being allocated to SPA at the time of its formation.
  • It was agreed that capacity of SPA core should be further enhanced to ensure it is fully able to conduct its key role in holding Police Scotland to account, and that on-going work to support this, including the new organisational structure should continue.
  • It was also agreed that SPA would not seek to duplicate functions and tasks where the expertise fits most closely within Police Scotland.  Police Scotland has its own processes and it is SPA’s role to test the assumptions and decisions taken.  Therefore, SPA should be a trim organisation, although it is recognised that it needs to increase its capability in order to fulfil its assurance role.
  • It was accepted that there may be some overlap of some of the scrutiny functions of SPA, HMICS and Audit Scotland.


  • Defining, and possibly enhancing, the relationship between SPA and Parliament should be explored as part of any ongoing work





By when

Capture ongoing work by all partners

All partners to continue with work to address the recommendations of HMICS, the Justice Committee and the Auditor General.  Ongoing review work should not be interrupted.  Identify and share all the pieces of work on the way and consider whether any require to be extended.


SG to collate activity

June 2020 – achieved with engagement and reviews on-going

SPA to continue plan to address HMICS recommendations

SPA has detailed workplan to address these

SPA and SG

Various strands on-going. All parties committed to complete by end 2020

Revise SPA Governance and Accountability Framework

SG working with SPA to revise


Autumn 2020

Time commitment of SPA Chair and Board members

Robert Black commissioned to complete this work,


Findings report submitted to SG June 2020. Published on SG website 07/08/2020

Map the system

Facilitated [virtual] workshops to :  to establish greater clarity around roles and responsibilities of all partners in the system, including Parliament and Audit Scotland, identifying points of interaction, gaps  and duplication.


Practical case studies topics to be agreed but could include COP26 and response to COVID-19.  HMICS has also suggested possible case studies.

SG to coordinate

Autumn 2020

Consider Accountable Officer status

Robert Black considered and offered his evidence based finding in his Review work submitted to SG June 2020. Roundtable to consider this and other recommendations in Mr Black’s report.


Autumn 2020.

Consider the delivery functions of the SPA (e.g. independent custody visiting and forensic services)

SPA already internally undertaking work – invite them to report on this.


Autumn 2020

Roundtable to reconvene in the Autumn

SG to facilitate the Roundtable members reconvening in the Autumn to review progress and consider further actions and engagement.


Autumn 2020

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