Scottish Policing Governance Roundtable meeting: March 2021

Minutes from the third meeting of the Scottish Policing Governance Roundtable meeting held on 15 March 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Chair)
  • Martyn Evans, Chair, Scottish Police Authority
  • Lynn Brown, Chief Executive, Scottish Police Authority
  • Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable
  • DCC Fiona Taylor, Police Scotland
  • Carolyn McLeod, Audit Director, Audit Scotland
  • Gill Imery, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland
  • Michelle Macleod, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • Joe Griffin, Director General Education and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Clare Hicks, Deputy Director Police Division, Scottish Government
  • Murray McVicar and Laura Stewart, Police Division (note)

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary (CSJ) welcomed members to the third meeting of the roundtable. In particular, he welcomed Carolyn McLeod, as the new representative from Audit Scotland, and also Martyn Evans and Lynn Brown, the new permanent Chair and Chief Executive of the Authority. He also welcomed Joe Griffin to the Roundtable in his new role as Scottish Government Director General Education and Justice.

He noted that there has been less public focus on policing governance in recent months and that there appears to be no widespread appetite for an existential review of the governance landscape at this time. He acknowledged that relationships are very strong at present, but that we needed to ensure that we continue progress and that the governance structures can still carry the weight when there are challenges.

Reflections by roundtable members

CSJ invited members to offer their reflections on developments since the last meeting in November.

Carolyn McLeod, Audit Director, Audit Scotland

Ms McLeod provided an update on Audit Scotland’s considerations and contributions. She noted that the Auditor General had reaffirmed that he does not intend to undertake a wholescale review of governance at this time, and referred to his appearance at PAPLS on 17 December where he noted general progress in this area and the ongoing work of the roundtable.

She noted the progress that had been achieved since the publication of Audit Scotland’s Section 22 report on SPA in December 2020, in particular around financial sustainability and the Strategic Workforce Plan, and observed that it will be interesting to see what that means for transformational work. She reported that Audit Scotland has arranged regular engagement meetings with PIRC colleagues, in the light of the report by Dame Elish Angiolini.

Gill Imery, HMICS

Ms Imery reported that she was encouraged by the level of progress in relation to the recommendations of the HMICS Thematic review published in September 2019. She noted that three recommendations had been fully discharged but that there was a lot of work underway on the others. She acknowledged the stability that had been brought to the system with the appointments of the new Chair and Chief Executive of the Authority, and the new structure  being put in place to enhance the Authority’s capacity. This was a really positive picture.

She repeated her view that the Accountable Officer role could rest with the Chief Constable and there are examples of alternative governance arrangements elsewhere that would not compromise the operational independence of the Chief Constable. CSJ agreed that this required further discussion.

Martyn Evans, Chair SPA

Mr Evans highlighted the ongoing work on enhancing the capacity of the Authority, to ensure that it provides the most appropriate support for its Board members in their non-executive role. Ms Brown confirmed that the Authority has made real progress in this area.

Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable

Mr Livingstone reiterated that strong and effective governance and scrutiny is vital – for the police and for the public. He said that he is optimistic about the current structure and the individuals working within it. The relationships are very strong. He welcomed the appointments of Mr Evans and Ms Brown and the experience and integrity that they bring. He reflected that it is really important that there is stability in the system as a whole. 

He noted that the system of governance and accountability had stood up well under the pressures of the pandemic – he believed that this is a tribute to the clear roles played by the Authority, HMICS, PIRC, and other partners. He was clear that the level of scrutiny has not diminished in any way. At the same time, the operational independence of Police Scotland has been fully underlined by all players in the system, including Ministers. 

He acknowledged the considerable progress made by eliminating the structural deficit and the opportunities this provides to ensure future business benefits. 

He agreed that the Accountable Officer status should be discussed further, given his responsibility for the operational decisions that determine the spend of the budget and his sign-off of the Certificates of Assurance. He noted that the role of Accountable Officer is fundamental to transparency and public trust.

Michelle Macleod, PIRC

Ms Macleod informed the meeting that PIRC had been considering the recommendations of the Dame Elish Angioni review in detail. She reported that she was supportive of some of the revisions to the governance structure proposed by Dame Elish but expressed reservations regarding some aspects proposed. She reported that PIRC has recently appointed members to its Audit Committee through an open and transparent process. 

 Joe Griffin, Director General, Education and Justice

Mr Griffin noted his view that this is a useful group to have in place, given the stability in the policing eco-system. It provides a forum to resolve any issues of structure, e.g. around the Accountable Officer. He noted that the number of people coming into the policing in both Police Scotland and in SPA indicated that the system is seen as being in a strong place and one that people wished to be part of.

CSJ thanked colleagues for their helpful reflections and noted that the progress is very much a testament to the efforts of the individuals on the RoundTable. He emphasised that there is a need for us to have continual improvement in this regard.


  • Scottish Government to work with partners, and to bring a paper on the Accountable Officer status to the next roundtable meeting

Current issues/mapping of recommendations/explaining the policing governance system

The roundtable agreed to consider agenda items 4, 5 and 6 together.

The meeting considered a paper designed to help map progress against the HMICS recommendations, and those of Dr Robert Black. It was agreed that it was helpful for these to be brought together in one document. Ms Imery said that she would be happy to contribute further and to add the status of each recommendation to help clarify the position. The Authority also has a clear plan, with a high bar to closing each recommendation, and will be able to help supplement the document.


  • Scottish Government to liaise with colleagues on next iteration of map

The meeting also considered a paper that will be published in the roundtable’s name and which aims to captures the different roles of each organisation and their responsibilities and accountabilities in a single document. This is in response to previous criticisms around potential confusion and overlap. It was agreed that this was a helpful starter paper and that colleagues would work together to refine it over the coming weeks. It was noted that it is important that the document makes explicitly clear the operational independence of the Chief Constable, and the high level of accountability and responsibility that this brings. It may also be necessary to capture the role of the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office as an important part of the landscape


  • Scottish Government to liaise with colleagues on next iteration

Outreach beyond members of the roundtable

It was agreed that consideration of the governance of policing should not be solely reserved for members of the roundtable and that other stakeholders had important views that should be fed into the discussions on these issues.

It was agreed that CSJ would write to organisations around this (as he had done with the former Chair to seek her views in 2020). Members were asked to consider and to provide officials with stakeholders who should be approached to provide their perspectives. 

Ms Imery noted that recommendation 5 of the HMICS Thematic Review had been based on the importance of enhancing the link between local and national policing. It was acknowledged that a lot of work had been undertaken with local authorities since then, but that further consideration should be given as to how best to ensure the critical views of local government are represented at this table.  

Mr Evans noted that careful consideration had been given to this HMICS recommendation and that it was not, however, possible to implement it given the specific individual responsibility which rests with individual Authority members. He did however recognise the importance of the links between the Authority and local scrutiny panels and was committed to do all in his power to enhance the role and relationships with local government. He noted that Cllr Parry (COSLA spokesperson) was now a member of the Policing Performance Committee, but that more could be done. From an SPA perspective there would be benefit from COSLA’s views and experience feeding into the Governance Roundtable. It was agreed that COSLA would be invited to attend the next meeting.

CSJ concluded the meeting by suggesting that there was real value in continuing to bring together the organisations perhaps once or twice a year. Most members agreed that a multi-lateral conversation was helpful and would add value to each other’s roles and ensure continued alignment. The roundtable could take a view in future about whether this should be time limited or not.


  • members to suggest key stakeholders to be approached for their views on governance and accountability
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