THE Scottish Government has been criticised after a controversial former police chief embroiled in a media spying row was given two jobs by Nicola Sturgeon's administration.

Neil Richardson, who was accused in an official report of being so defensive he “misled those seeking the truth”, was last week unveiled as vice-chair of the new drugs death taskforce.

He has also become one of the Government’s £9400-a-year non-executive directors, helping to “promote the highest standards of corporate governance”.

Mr Richardson stepped down as deputy chief constable of Police Scotland in May 2016 amid a furore over his officers illegally spying on journalists’ sources.

As DCC Richardson, he had been in ultimate charge of the now-disbanded Counter Corruption Unit (CCU), which was supposed to root out dirty officers but itself broke the law.

In 2015, a Sunday newspaper published an expose of the old Strathclyde force’s failings in the unsolved murder of sex worker Emma Caldwell 10 years earlier.

The CCU launched a mole hunt to find out if retired or serving officers had passed information about the case to the media – but failed to get crucial permission from a judge.

The scandal led to a Holyrood hearing at which DCC Richardson gave evidence to MSPs, telling them data rules had been breached by “mistake”.

One of the officers wrongly targeted by the CCU, Detective Inspector David Moran, told Holyrood that DCC Richardson had wrongly blamed him for leaking information.

Moran told MSPs that he believed DCC Richardson was “guilty of misconduct in misrepresenting” what had happened, adding: “At best he was completely misinformed or at worst it was made up. Either way he has severely scarred my reputation publicly."

Green MSP John Finnie also said at Holyrood’s Justice Committee that Mr Richardson had not been “frank with us”.

An outside report into the CCU’s actions by Durham Constabulary subsequently concluded that DCC Richardson and another senior officer did not set out to deceive “but, through being overly defensive, have misled those seeking the truth”.

After he quit Police Scotland with more than 30 years’ service, Mr Richardson applied unsuccessfully to become the £117,000-a-year chief executive of Inverclyde Council.

In November 2016, he was appointed the £100,000-a-year chief executive of the social care charity Turning Point Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s drugs task force was set up to examine the main causes of Scotland’s drug deaths explosion, and whether changes in practice or the law could help.

Last year, Scotland had one of the worst drug death rates in the world, with fatalities up 27 per cent to 1,187 and “accidental poisoning” the biggest killer of 20 to 49-year-olds.

Mr Finnie, the justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: “When I questioned then DCC Neil Richardson at Committee, about serious allegations of police wrongdoing, I found him totally unconvincing and believe he played an obstructive role in the whole episode.

“On hearing he’d been appointed as a Non-executive Government Director I inquired privately how this could be and was told it was a public rather than political appointment.

“However, if he is to be vice-chair of this hugely important committee, and his appointment is a political one, then I have to question the judgement of those who consider him suitable.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Neil Richardson was appointed to the role after working extensively in the public sector for three decades.

“He is currently the CEO of Turning Point Scotland – who have a long history of providing social care services around the country.

“The Minister for Public Health has written to prospective panel members and responses are expected this week. Members are expected to demonstrate commitment to make a positive, practical, meaningful and lasting contribution.

“What Scotland faces in terms of drug-related deaths is an emergency so it is important we treat drug use as a public health issue – and we are prepared to take innovative and bold measures in order to save the lives of those most at risk.”

Mr Richardson did not provide a comment.