Scottish Police Authority (SPA) chairman Vic Emery is under fire after Eleanor Walker, with whom he owns a company, was given a senior manager's post at the authority.
She was appointed to the unadvertised role against a backdrop of huge redundancies among police staff.
The new single force has two components: Police Scotland, led by Chief Constable Stephen House; and the SPA, set up to hold the service to account. Emery, 68, receives up to £9000 a month for his SPA role.
The spotlight has now shifted to the creation of the SPA's interim "project" team, set up to pave the way for the new force.
In November last year, Andrea Quinn, CEO of the Scottish Police Services Authority, was appointed as interim chief executive of the SPA. She was joined at the new body by another dozen or so individuals from the public sector.
At the same time, Emery – formerly chairman of TIE, the body in charge of Edinburgh's trams project – identified the need for an SPA "business manager" with "experience of his working approach".
The plum job was handed to Walker, 34, who was given a six-month contract worth between £23,000 and £28,000.
However, the appointment has caused concern as Walker is Emery's longstanding business partner. The duo are directors and co-shareholders of Glasgow-based Nelson Andrews and Associates Ltd. They are also directors of UK Project Management International Ltd, a company incorporated in 2009. In 2003, they were also directors and shareholders of Hiwood Developments Ltd (which is now dissolved).
A Glasgow University graduate, Walker was a business manager at BAE Systems naval warship division between 1999 and 2008. Emery was the managing director of the same division between 1997 and 2008.
Walker is the only member of the interim team recruited from outside the public sector. Her new job involves co-ordinating between key SPA figures, Police Scotland and the government.
One source said hiring Walker was a "snub" to the civilian personnel currently working in the service.
John Wilson, an SNP MSP for Central Scotland, said: "The revelation that Mr Emery helped a long-term business partner get a job at the SPA is very concerning.
"This appointment may be seen by people as being tainted by cronyism.
"I intend to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the First Minister to seek assurances that all public agencies will be reminded about adopting the best recruitment practices possible."
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "It's troubling that even before these misguided new structures are in place, allegations are being made that could damage the trust that the public and police staff have in those at the top.
Andrea Quinn said: "By the time the members of the SPA board had been appointed there were just 150 days left before the new police arrangements were due to be up and running. In order to meet these challenging timescales, a project team has had to be put together very quickly to ensure the key decisions needed for day one are taken.
"Both the Police Service of Scotland and the interim SPA team have filled key roles by a mix of competitive processes wherever possible, and appointments wherever necessary. By Christmas, the SPA board had held two formal, public meetings to establish procedures and take key decisions – roughly the same period it would have taken to get a business manager in place through a full appointment process."
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