SCOTLAND'S new civilian police watchdog is facing accusations of secrecy after holding vital meetings in private.

Although board meetings of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) are open to the public, members have been discussing agenda items in private in advance.

George McIrvine, a branch secretary for Unison, said: "Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent and be happy that decisions are in their best interests. An example would be the directors' severance package, which was discussed in private before being approved after five minutes in public."

McIrvine said Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had agreed to raise the issue with the SPA after Unison complained.

An SPA spokesperson said: "The board has been meeting publicly on a monthly basis and it will have two meetings in March. There are short pre-meetings on the day of the public meeting to cover the agenda and this is also an opportunity for members to highlight any additional urgent business that they would like tabled at the public board meeting. No formal decisions are taken at these pre-meetings."