The chairman of Scotland's main civilian police watchdog has been urged to apologise for controversial moves to bar the public and journalists from some of its meetings.

Andrew Flanagan of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has already been told by one MSP that he was "not running the Kremlin" after what critics called a "shambolic" attempt to justify his policies in Holyrood.

Now Mr Flanagan is under renewed pressure from his fiercest critic, former SPA board member Moi Ali, to apologise for what she called "untenable decisions".

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Writing in The Herald, Ms Ali cited Elton John's 1976 ballad "Sorry seems to be the hardest word" before adding: "Mr Flanagan, sorry is the word that the public expects. Don’t keep them waiting."

Ms Ali added: "Most of us learn that it’s best to admit mistakes, apologise and put it right. Not so the SPA, the subject of relentless adverse publicity since its decisions to bar journalists and the public from previously open committees, and to stop advance publication of board papers.

"Ironically, both decisions were taken in bid to avoid unsympathetic media coverage. An early apology and the reversal of untenable decisions would have averted this embarrassing fiasco, saved Mr Flanagan’s face, and prevented the serious reputational damage he has inflicted on his own organisation."

In December, a review by Mr Flanagan led to the watchdog backing private committee sessions and only publishing board papers on the day of a meeting.

Ms Ali, at that point an SPA board member, resigned after Mr Flanagan criticised her for questioning the two recommendations in public.

The SPA last week signalled it was abandoning the policy after Mr Flanagan was grilled at a Holyrood committee. One Tory MSP asked if Mr Flanagan had considered his position as a result of the row. Senior SNP backbencher and former minister Alex Neil told the chairman "This is not the Kremlin you are running, it is supposed to be an open public body, accountable ... you are accountable to the board members."

Asked to respond to Ms Ali's article in The Herald, an SPA spokeswoman said: "The governance changes brought in by the SPA some months ago are issues of policy, not issues about individuals. The SPA board acknowledged from the outset that there would be differing views on elements of their approach and that is why they agreed to keep them under review. The board will consider further at its public meeting in May."