FORMER Justice Secretary Kenneth MacAskill has defended his successor’s failure to minute a key meeting about the future of Scotland’s top police officer.

Writing in today’s Herald, Mr MacAskill says government “can’t be conducted in full view... like Celebrity Big Brother” and ministers need space to discuss sensitive issues in private.

Michael Matheson was widely criticised last week after it emerged no minute was taken of a disputed meeting with former Scottish Police Authority chair Andrew Flanagan.

READ MORE: Why ministers must not be tied down by constant minuting

The two men discussed the SPA board’s decision to allow Chief Constable Phil Gormley to return to duty despite an ongoing investigation into bullying allegations against him.

After Mr Matheson asked the autonomous SPA to “reconsider”, the decision was hastily reversed, leading to claims Mr Matheson acted unlawfully by overstepping his powers.

Despite the meeting being in two parts, and Mr Matheson assembling a team of civil servants for the second half, no minute exists to clarify the matter.

Implying the lack of a minute was a deliberate choice, Mr MacAskill said: “The chat was necessary and rightly took place unminuted.”

Paul Johnson, the government’s director-general of education, communities and justice, has now told Holyrood’s public audit committee that although no formal minute was kept, the meeting’s conclusions were circulated among civil servants.

READ MORE: Why ministers must not be tied down by constant minuting

He told MSPs in a letter released yesterday: “Although no formal minute was taken, the officials present communicated the conclusions of the meeting to relevant colleagues at the time and the actions from the meeting were for the former Chair to take forward.”

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Gormley helped draft an SPA press release about his proposed return last November while on special leave, despite being accountable to the SPA.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said it showed relations between the Chief Constable and his nominal oversight body were “too close for comfort”.