ACTION musts be taken to restore public confidence in Scotland's police watchdog after its own board criticised it for being “useless”.

MSPs have said that confidence in the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is at an all time low and questioned why it was not free from political interference.

The comments cane after a report by academic Dr Ali Malik found that some board members believed the SPA to be a “waste of time”, toothless and in the “pocket” of the SNP Government.

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Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said: “Confidence in the ability of the SPA to do its job is at an all time low. This year both the Chair and the Chief Executive left after significant criticism from HMICS and parliamentary committees, and now it seems its own board members do not have confidence in it as an organisation. "

These comments go to the heart of an organisation which its own members describe as lacking expertise and confidence, and as one which is hampered in its role by political interference and pressure from the Scottish Government.

“This is a model of governance created by the Scottish Government and one has to ask whether this situation is recoverable. Strong action must be taken if the public are to have confidence in the SPA.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP added:

“At a time when policing in Scotland is in crisis we desperately need an effective organisation to hold Police Scotland to account. Instead, over the past year the SPA has faced a steady stream of bad news, from accusations surrounding its culture of secrecy to dysfunctional managerial relationships.

“To make matters worse, members of the SPA’s own board have now claimed that their ability to shine a light on policing matters has been stifled by continued Scottish Government interference. The public will rightly be asking what Scottish Ministers don’t want to see revealed.

“The Scottish Government's flawed legislation put the SPA on the back foot from the start and it has compounded this through ministerial meddling. These latest revelations will do little to restore public confidence in the government’s approach to policing.”

However, Nicola Marchant, Deputy Chair of the SPA said: "Recent feedback from a number of stakeholders has welcomed progress to date. The review of the SPA being led by myself and Malcolm Burr provides an opportunity to clarify the responsibilities, resources and relationships? we need to build on that work.

"I expect there will be actions for the SPA that will flow from the review once published and also for other others. One key area will be to move beyond a perception that the SPA is solely defined by its relationships with central government and the police service. There are a range of stakeholders we need to involve more fully in our work, including local authorities."