A Labour councillor and prominent trade unionist is locked in a legal battle with Police Scotland over claims he tried to further his political career while he should have been working for them.

George McIrvine, a Dundee councillor, is said to have falsified time sheets and attended Scottish Labour events – including the election of former party leader Richard Leonard in 2017 – while on secondment as the branch secretary for UNISON Police Staff Scotland.

The police civilian worker also undertook paid training with a charity while he was off on sick leave.

He was sacked in 2019 but has now raised an employment tribunal against the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) claiming he was unfairly dismissed and treated unfairly due to his trade union membership.

The tribunal heard from Inspector Steven McKinnon, the officer who investigated the misconduct allegations, who reported that Mr McIrvine was using his position "to further his own political career by attending events and conferences that were not essential to his role or benefitting to his employer”.

Solicitor Elise Turner, representing the SPA, asked Mr McKinnon if he investigated this issue.

He replied: “Yes, a number of the dates that are listed were specifically Labour events, and obviously the attendance at the election of the Labour leader, these are events that are politically driven.

“Police Scotland is an organisation which is apolitical for very good reason, we’ve got absolutely no loyalty to any political camp and need to remain impartial.”

The hearing was told that the force introduced a new time sheet system in September 2017 for seconded trade union activists to record their activities. This was to be backdated.

Mr McKinnon was asked to look into Mr McIrvine’s log in July the following year after concerns were raised.

He discovered that he had attended a May Day rally on April 30, 2017, and a Labour link conference on July 5 while he was working.

Employment judge Alan Strain put it to the witness that, as Mr McIrvine was seconded full time, there was no issue with him taking time away from his normal post.

Mr McKinnon said: “Our position is that he would still have been required to carry out other duties at the request of Police Scotland. The fact that he had chosen, without informing anyone else in the organisation, to attend such conferences meant that he was no longer available to police Scotland to carry out other duties such as representing staff in disciplinary matters, health and safety training etc.”

The judge also asked about a statement from a senior UNISON figure which claimed that there were issues with the categorisation of union activities, but this was a “systems issue” which should not have been progressed as a disciplinary case against an individual.

Mr McKinnon said that those on secondment were there to carry out “specific activities to benefit Police Scotland”. 

The tribunal went on to hear that there were other discrepancies with Mr McIrvine’s time sheets.

On August 30, 2017, a meeting took place at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan. The tribunal heard that Mr McIrvine claimed for four hours travel time there and back, as well as taking part in “general employee relations” between 9am and 2pm.

Ms Turner asked what the problem was with the time entry.

Mr McKinnon replied: “The journey times don’t add up.”

He added that other members of Police Scotland also attended the meeting and said that Mr McIrvine left early, before 11am.

On another occasion, the branch secretary paid a visit to Gartcosh Police Office for a meeting and claimed he was at the office between 9.30am and 6pm.

However, Mr McKinnon said another member of police staff who was seconded to the union “created a time sheet entry that was in direct conflict to that”.

He added that the log in sheet at Gartcosh Police Office also recorded different times.

Ms Turner also asked: “During the investigatory interview, the claimant confirmed that had attended and been paid for a five day induction with a charity called Cornerstone while he was on sick leave. He agreed he had not notified the respondent. Is that correct?”

Mr McKinnon replied: “Yes.”

In cross-examination, Mr McIrvine’s solicitor Jay Lawson put it to Mr McKinnon that if his client was attending events for his own benefit, he would be unlikely to include them in his time sheets.

The witness replied that he believed the information had simply been copied over from his electronic diary. However, he added that Mr Lawson’s position was also possible.

The tribunal continues.