A former board member of the Scottish Police Authority has revealed he quit his post in 2015 over alleged Government interference at the watchdog.

Brian Barbour also said the Government received SPA board documents before they were published in a bid to "control the agenda" and ensure difficult issues “never made the light of the day”.

He also hit out at the SPA for the “appalling” treatment of former colleague Moi Ali, who quit recently amid a secrecy row.

The SPA, chaired by Andrew Flanagan, provides national oversight of Police Scotland, but its own performance has been questioned recently.

In December, the SPA pushed through plans to hold committees in private and only publish board papers on the day of the meeting - moves believed to hamper transparency.

Ali, at that point an SPA board member, objected to the proposals and asked for her dissent to be recorded.

However, Flanagan then wrote to Ali and questioned whether she could attend committees in the future. She resigned earlier this year.

The chair was quizzed about the resignation by a Holyrood committee recently and has been called back today by MSPs to answer further questions.

Barbour, an IT specialist who sat on the board between 2012 and 2015 - before Flanagan took over - said of Ali’s treatment:

“Moi simply expressed dissent at a finding and is effectively pushed out. I’m really disappointed with the board. I think the treatment has been appalling.”

In an interview with the Herald, he also spoke about what he regarded as a key problem with the SPA during his time there:

“I think there is too much of a closeness and too much direction from the government with a small ‘d’.”

He explained: “The Government started to require the visibility of the board agenda before it was published. That was simply an attempt to control the agenda and so that things that the Government or officials didn’t want in public never made the light of day.”

Asked what would happen after the Government got an SPA agenda, he said: “On occasions, things disappeared from agendas.”

He added: “Sharing the agenda with Government before it is public is one thing, but actually having the government influence the agenda is not good governance.”

On his decision to resign, he said: “If you are there to do a job, and you are not being allowed to do your job, then you may as well not be there.”

Asked if the hand of government in the SPA was a factor, he said: “Yes.”

Barbour also said: “My view is that Parliament passed the Act and the SPA and should be accountable to Parliament. Others take a view that the SPA is accountable to Government.”


Picture: Baker

Scottish Labour Justice spokesperson, Claire Baker MSP, said: “Reports of Government interference with the SPA goes against all SNP claims of ‘operational matters and independence’ with our police force.

“That items can disappear from the agenda on the Government’s authority is a serious matter and the policing committee must look into this matter if we are to retain any confidence in the SPA’s ability to oversee policing in Scotland.

“On the back of closed meetings, resignations and a lack of transparency, these latest reports of Government interference strengthen the case for increased Parliamentary oversight instead of the SNP Government’s control of the SPA.”

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said: “These are extremely serious allegations, which basically suggest the SNP was trying to manipulate what the SPA should and shouldn’t be debating. It’s no wonder members of the SPA have left as a result of this apparent interference."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:

“We are very clear about the independence of the Scottish Police Authority and reject any suggestion that the Scottish Government is influencing the agenda of the Board or preventing it from functioning effectively. It is for the SPA chair to decide what items are included in board meeting agendas. The draft agenda is shared with us for information only.”

A spokesperson for the SPA said:

"The final decision on board agendas rests with the Chair of the SPA. The SPA has since its inception shared draft agendas with the Scottish Government sponsor division for information. Both the SPA and Police Scotland recognise the legitimate interest of the Scottish Government in being kept abreast of policing matters. Indeed in February 2015, the then SPA board, including Mr Barbour, unanimously endorsed and published a protocol which committed the SPA and Police Scotland to 'ensuring that key issues are discussed with the Scottish Government in a timely manner…and ensuring that the government has the opportunity to provide policy input before decisions are finalised'."