THE chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority is under pressure after he was criticised in a damning report into the beleaguered watchdog.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland found “dysfunction” in the relationship between John Foley and outgoing SPA chair Andrew Flanagan.

In its report, leaked to, HMICS also flagged up “shortcomings” in the “capacity” of Foley and senior managers to provide expert advice to the SPA board, a failing described as a "fundamental weakness".

The SPA is the national oversight body for Police Scotland and plays a vital role in helping set the £1bn policing budget.

However, Flanagan has been at the forefront of criticism in recent months over plans to hold private committee meetings and restrict the publication of board papers.

He sparked a major political row after he criticised a former board member, Moi Ali, for speaking out against the plans and failed to circulate an HMICS letter on the proposals to his board colleagues. Mounting pressure on Flanagan led to him announcing his resignation from the SPA last week.

As the Flanagan row raged, HMICS brought forward its inspection of SPA openness and transparency.

The findings will be published tomorrow, but has had sight of the full document.

On private committee meetings, the HMICS executive summary concluded that the SPA had taken a “narrow interpretation” of the legislation in support of the decision.

It also stated that agenda and papers should be published in advance of meetings in order to “promote transparency”.

However, with Flanagan on the way out, it is the sections on Foley, who has been in post since 2014, that will likely attract the most attention.

The HMICS report stated: “My inspection has identified shortcomings in the capacity of the Chief Executive, senior managers and committee support services to provide the level of expert advice and governance support needed by the Board."

The report claimed this was a “fundamental weakness” in the current executive structures and added:

“I also found dysfunction in the relationship between the Chair and the Chief Executive, and identified challenges for the Chief Executive and his senior management team in managing long-term secondments and absences.”

HMICS found no evidence of a bullying culture inside the SPA, but the report concluded:

“Whilst current Board members felt well engaged by the Chair, there was a perception from some SPA staff that he was uninterested in them and the organisation, having formed a negative view early in his tenure.

The Inspectorate will publish twenty key findings, including the claim that limiting publication of meeting papers was taken “primarily” to mitigate against issues being “played out in the media”.

HMICS also ruled that an “informal media embargo” imposed by the SPA on the release of publicly available information is not “desirable or sustainable”.

On Ali, the watchdog stated that she had acted fully in accordance with board guidance and the Chair did not properly interpret “collective responsibility”.

Flanagan said: “Given that this is a report about openness and transparency, it is disappointing that it should be leaked to a media outlet and an interpretation placed upon it before the document as a whole is in the public domain. I hope the circumstances of that will be fully investigated by HMICS.

“SPA has already acknowledged recent mistakes made, has listened to the strengthened civic and public concerns around transparency, and responded accordingly.

“However, two charges that have been levelled at the SPA in recent months is that we were creating an organisation to keep secrets, and that we were inappropriately taking decisions behind closed doors which should have been made in public.

“It is notable that the HMICS inspection report contains no evidence or findings that would support either of those accusations.

“We also welcome that the report found no evidence of a ‘bullying culture’ within the SPA, and I hope that this finding is given as much prominence as the original allegation."