AN embattled watchdog has shelved a complaint made against the Acting Chief Constable of Police Scotland nearly six months ago, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) received the complaint about Iain Livingstone in July last year but months later decided to “defer” consideration until an employment tribunal was resolved.

A policing insider contrasted the SPA’s handling of the matter with the way the watchdog had processed complaints about Chief Constable Phil Gormley, who is on leave fighting bullying allegations.

Policing in Scotland is said to be in crisis over an extraordinary series of disputes involving senior officers and a range of organisations including the Government.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) is probing four complaints against Gormley, who was granted a leave of absence by the SPA in September.

The SPA agreed to allow Gormley to return in November, but the oversight body reversed its decision after a controversial intervention by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

Unrelatedly, Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins was suspended after criminal and misconduct allegations were made against him.

Livingstone, who was passed over for the chief constable post in 2015, has been standing in for Gormley and is tipped as a potential successor. However, the Sunday Herald can reveal that the former Lothian and Borders officer is himself the subject of a complaint by a colleague.

Constable Andrew Reid, 39, took the force to a tribunal last year over claims of victimisation. During the case he said he had made a complaint about another officer to Livingstone and he called the chief officer as a witness. According to newspaper reports of the proceedings Reid and Livingstone clashed at the tribunal.

In July, Reid made a formal complaint to the SPA about two aspects relating to Livingstone and the case.

In October, the SPA responded: “After careful consideration, the CEO deemed it to be appropriate that determination of your complaint allegations against DCC Livingstone be deferred pending the conclusion of the ongoing employment tribunal proceedings raised by you against the Chief Constable of Police Scotland to avoid any potential prejudice to those proceedings.

“Your complaint file will therefore remain open and the SPA would hope to provide you with a determination of the complaint allegations against DCC Livingstone as soon as possible following the Tribunal’s judgement.”

In a recent audit into how the SPA handles complaints, the PIRC flagged up concerns about delays in the system: “The lack of timescales within the guidance document resulted in some ‘relevant complaints’ taking a long time before reaching a conclusion, without any reasonable explanation being offered by the SPA for the delay.”

Linda Fabiani, who is Reid’s constituency MSP, said: “I’ve been working with Andy on his case for many years now. A resolution should have been reached a long time ago.”

An SPA spokesperson said: "The SPA, given its statutory functions in complaints handling and its responsibilities as an employer, will not comment further on this or other live cases".

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said it would not be appropriate to comment.

Meanwhile, scrutiny of Matheson’s intervention in the Gormley case will intensify this week at Holyrood.

The Tories are to stage a debate on justice on Wednesday and Andrew Flanagan, the former chair of the SPA who has been criticised over the initial decision to allow Gormley to return, will give evidence to a parliamentary committee on Thursday.