A Scottish Police Authority board member has resigned after believing she was punished for raising concerns about transparency at the watchdog.

Moi Ali was informed by SPA chair Andrew Flanagan that it would not be fair for her to participate on the body’s committees after she objected to plans to hold meetings in private.

Speaking exclusively to the Herald, she said: “I’m resigning because I don’t think that it is right for anybody to try to silence board members from expressing their views in public.”

The SPA, which provides oversight of Police Scotland, was the subject of a review into its governance by Mr Flanagan recently.

However, parts of the new framework were controversial, such as holding SPA committees in private and only making the papers of public session available on the morning of the meeting.

At the December meeting of the SPA board, Ms Ali said she backed the framework, but stated: “I also have some very serious concerns about the lack of transparency about those two proposals.”

Ms Ali also asked that her concerns were reflected in the minute of the meeting.

The Herald can reveal that Mr Flanagan sent Ms Ali a letter expressing his dissatisfaction about her comments at the public board meeting.

It is understood he claimed that individual board members who wished to share public disagreements would normally consider resigning. He is also believed to have put a question mark over her participation in SPA committees. She then resigned.

Ms Ali said: “I felt I had to do it because there is a really important principle at stake, and that principle is that I believe board members have a duty to provide challenge in a public forum. If dissent is only allowed privately, then I think decision making becomes shrouded in a kind of fog.”

She continued: “I felt that I could not any longer go to a board meeting where I felt I could freely express my views. It was made very clear to me that public dissent would not be accepted.”

Asked about Mr Flanagan’s letter, she said: “I felt shocked and surprised. I felt that this was not a way that a leader should behave.”

She added: “Any reasonable person should have chosen to discuss those concerns, at best face-to-face, at worst on the telephone, but certainly not by putting a letter second class in the post.”

Ms Ali described the chair’s comments on her non-participation in SPA committees as “punitive”.

She said: “I can’t think why else a board member who has been hard working and conscientious for four and a half years, should be told in a letter, out of the blue, that they will not be serving on any committees in the future.”

On Mr Flanagan, she said: “A board does need to have proper challenge and that means diverse views being expressed. If a chair finds that difficult, then perhaps they are not in the right job.”

Ms Ali has sat on public boards for around twenty years, but said: “I have never, ever experienced anything like this at all.”

In December, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) concluded that the decision on private committee meetings was “at odds” with the SPA commitment to being open and transparent.

The decision was followed by Audit Scotland projecting that the SPA would have a potential cumulative deficit of around £188m by the end of the current parliamentary session.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

“This member has been forced out for standing up for basic democratic principles. The SPA spends billions of pounds of taxpayers money. Attempts to hush up their work are unacceptable.

“Demanding the resignation of board members who speak out is only going to strengthen the belief that SPA have a stake in hiding from public scrutiny.

“For example, there is no good reason for keeping board papers from the public until meetings are under way. These used to be published days in advance. This change appears to be motivated purely by a desire to limit scrutiny and the accompanying possibility of bad press.

“To retain the trust of the public, Scotland needs a police force that is open and transparent in how it conducts its business.”

An SPA spokesperson said: "The Chair fully supports and endorses the ability of all board members to provide constructive challenge in public, and in line with best practice guidance. He also stresses the value of members demonstrating careful judgement in balancing challenge with public expectations around collective responsibility.

“Exchanges with Ms Ali were not centred on the principles of constructive challenge or dissent, but on the lack of effective communication between the member, Chair and the rest of the board before such dissent was raised and recorded. The Chair provided reassurance to Ms Ali that her right to offer constructive challenge at the public board meetings would continue to be respected, and that she could continue to make a positive contribution to the SPA board. She has chosen to resign and we respect her right to do so."