SCOTTISH Police Authority chair Andrew Flanagan yesterday issued a “full and unreserved personal apology” to a former board member who claimed he had forced her out.
However, Mr Flanagan told MSPs he would not resign, despite “greatly” regretting his treatment of Moi Ali after she objected to SPA secrecy plans.
In a further blow to the watchdog chair, he confirmed a u-turn on the two transparency issues that have dogged him over the last five months.
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The SPA was set up to provide national oversight of Police Scotland, but its own record is at the centre of a growing political row.
After a governance review by Mr Flanagan, the SPA controversially moved to private committee meetings and held back board papers until the day of a meeting.
As revealed by the Herald, Moi Ali resigned from the board after the chair sent her a stinging private letter that criticised her for questioning the proposals.
This newspaper also revealed that Mr Flanagan failed to pass on to board colleagues a letter by Derek Penman, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, that was scathing about the secrecy recommendations.
Mr Flanagan has faced calls for his resignation over the Ali and Penman rows and yesterday faced his second round of questioning by a Holyrood committee.
On his "treatment" of Ms Ali, Mr Flanagan said in an opening statement:
“I greatly regret the timing, tone and content of my initial letter to her. It was a misjudgement to send a letter rather than open up a conversation.
“She was right in raising the substantive concerns she had about transparency and perception, and she did so in a manner that was entirely consistent with her role as a public board member. I was wrong and it is important that I today set the public record straight on that.”
He added: “I have now written to her and offered my full and unreserved personal apology.”
On his failure to share the HMICS letter, Mr Flanagan said: “I recognise that HMICS, and indeed Audit Scotland, are not simply stakeholders. I have now put in place an automatic process that every formal communication sent to me by them will be circulated to all board members, unless otherwise stipulated by the sender.”
Addressing calls for his resignation, Mr Flanagan said he had “reflected very seriously on the views” expressed by MSPs and other stakeholders, but said:
“In reflecting on the last two years, there is more that I have got right than wrong – on strategy, on financial clarity and control, on refreshed leadership for policing and on many other aspects.
“I acknowledge my recent mistakes and you have rightly taken me to task for them. But I hope to be judged also on the significant progress achieved, and the leadership potential I still have to offer.”
He also said the SPA would look to appoint a deputy chair - a woman - and confirmed that committees would meet in public. He added: “Papers will be published well in advance of meetings, and to everyone.”
However, Mr Flanagan denied that his conduct towards Ms Ali amounted to bullying, a charge she levelled against him.
In a bruising session of the justice sub-committee, MSP Margaret Mitchell said: “You havn’t filled me with confidence today.”
Another committee member, Nationalist Stewart Stevenson, asked Mr Flanagan if his mistakes carried the “very significant danger” of “contaminating and lying over” the future work of the SPA.