ONE of the country’s most senior police officers was blocked from buying the Audi he used at the single force after an intervention by the chief constable.

Neil Richardson, who leaves Police Scotland next week after serving as the force's number two, was informed by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that he could not take the car with him into retirement.

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However, he complained of being “singled out” after the SPA – the force’s oversight body - informed him the vehicle had to be returned “as soon as possible”.

Mr Richardson has over thirty years’ service in the police, including lengthy stints at the legacy Strathclyde and Lothian & Borders forces.

The high-point of his career was becoming DCC at Police Scotland, but he was passed over for the top job last year after Phil Gormley succeeded Sir Stephen House as chief constable.

In March, Police Scotland announced Mr Richardson would be leaving the organisation.

SPA correspondence reveals Mr Richardson became embroiled in a spat over a force Audi after the announcement of his departure.

In a letter to SPA chair Andrew Flanagan on May 5th, he wrote of a “final meeting” with Gormley “during which he expressed some concern regarding my plans to purchase my executive vehicle”.

As of earlier this year, the force had five Audis in the Executive fleet, spanning the A3, A4, A6, Q3 and Q5 models, which are worth between £23,615 and £40,045 if bought new.

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Picture: the force has five Audis for police chiefs

According to Mr Richardson, he signed a contract at Strathclyde Police which stated that an outgoing chief officer could buy his vehicle subject to a valuation.

He added that a “draft” scheme reflecting the legacy force policy had been in place at Police Scotland and was the “working procedure”.

He also said other colleagues on the Executive – the force’s senior decision making body – had been allowed to retain their vehicles until their last service day.

Days later, SPA chief executive John Foley wrote to Mr Richardson: “I regret that I cannot concur with your intention to purchase the executive vehicle.”

Mr Foley noted that vehicles were owned by the SPA and a sale would require the purchase of another car:

“Given the current financial situation, I cannot approve the expenditure of funds for such a purpose.”

The chief executive sent a second letter asking Mr Richardson for the date on which he would return the car.

Forty-eight hours later, Mr Richardson responded: “I confess I am a little surprised at the Authority’s position in this matter.”

He repeated that some policies were in draft form, but “nonetheless constitute the legitimate policy framework for the governance of Police Scotland".

On why he was not allowed to hold on to his car until the end of his service, he wrote:

“I would be grateful if you could provide me with the rational [sic] that may help me understand why I am being singled out for treatment in this manner.”

The pair agreed the car would be returned in June. Mr Richardson officially retires on Monday.

Douglas Ross MSP, the Scottish Tory justice spokesman, said: "At a time when Police Scotland should be addressing its grim financial predicament and sorting staffing issues, it's involved in this needless squabble. It doesn't look good for either party, and is the kind of scenario which damages public confidence in the force."

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: "Police Scotland are facing a major funding shortfall. In recent weeks we have also seen the collapse of an IT project that we were told was crucial to the future success of our police force. Looking after the pennies is important but you would have thought that the Chief Constable had more on his mind than wranglings over the sale of a used car."

Police Scotland referred enquiries to the SPA.

An SPA spokesperson said: "All cars purchased for operational use by Police Scotland officers are the property of the SPA, which has a responsibility to ensure best value for the public purse. The car used by DCC Richardson was no exception and we can confirm it was returned in June for operational redeployment within Police Scotland."