A FORMER police chief at the centre of a tax and expenses row has been handed a new Government-funded role.

Rose Fitzpatrick, who recently retired as deputy chief constable of Police Scotland, will chair a national body aimed at preventing suicides.

It comes just months after it emerged police bosses had paid her £67,000 to move house and £53,000 to foot her tax bill.

Scotland’s financial watchdog later condemned the spending, alongside other payments also signed off by the Scottish Police Authority, as an “unacceptable” use of public money.

Ms Fitzpatrick will head a new suicide prevention body as part of Scottish Government efforts to reduce the number of people who take their own life by 20 per cent.

The National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) – which is being backed with £3 million of funding – will be set up by September, and forms part of a wider blueprint unveiled by ministers.

This includes a requirement for all NHS workers to receive training in mental health issues and suicide prevention, with "timely and effective support" for those affected by suicide.

Every single suicide in Scotland will also be reviewed to see if lessons can be learned.

SNP ministers previously came under fire over delays to the strategy, with the last suicide prevention plan running out in 2016.

Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative mental health spokeswoman, said suicide “remains a main cause of avoidable death in Scotland”.

She added: “I very much welcome the emphasis on training, review and the public awareness campaign highlighted within the strategy.

“I would also like to welcome the new suicide prevention leadership group but the appointment of Rose Fitzpatrick as chair of the group, given her recent history, will no doubt be controversial.

“The SNP has taken a risk with this appointment, considering the controversy over her departure from Police Scotland, and will have difficult questions to answer if it doesn’t work out.”

The new body chaired by Ms Fitzpatrick will be responsible for co-ordinating national campaigns, reviewing data and guidance on suicide and making recommendations.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the terms and conditions of her new role had not been finalised.

But official figures suggest she could be entitled to a minimum daily rate of £142.

The former police chief said it was an "honour" to have been asked to chair the new group.

She added: "I am deeply aware of the significance and importance of the group's work, and confident that by working closely with a range of partners to take on the range of important actions in this national plan, we can all make a real difference."

She said the new plan had been developed with the involvement of those who had lost loved ones to suicide, and thanked those who had taken part for their "vitally important" work.

There were 680 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2017, down from 728 the previous year. But the most recent figures show a slight rise among men, from 517 in 2016 to 522 last year.

Lee Knifton, head of the charity Mental Health Foundation Scotland, which campaigned to set up a dedicated body to help tackle suicide, welcomed the new plans.

He said: “While mental health has taken a more prominent place on the political agenda over the past decade, disappointingly suicide prevention lost impetus. We believe that the new leadership group can help instil new drive and ambition in tackling suicide in Scotland.”

Mental health minister Clare Haughey, who launched the new plan while visiting a men's mental health project in Midlothian, said: “Every life matters and no death by suicide should be regarded as either acceptable or inevitable. Over the past decade, Scotland has made real progress in reducing deaths by suicide but we have far more to do.

"We want a Scotland where suicide is preventable, and where anyone contemplating suicide or who has lost a loved one gets the support they need."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ms Fitzpatrick was appointed by the minister following strong recommendations from a number of stakeholders. She brings a track record of leadership in complex environments, inclusiveness and ability to manage diverse viewpoints and awareness of the wider public sector landscape.

"Stakeholders were clear to us in their discussions about the role that the chair needed to come from outside the mental health sector in order to bring an objective and fresh view.”