FORMER Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has accused the Scottish Police Authority of making a “bonkers” decision by hiring a new director on around £173,000 a year.

MacAskill, the architect of the new policing system, said the “super-director” appointment was an “insult” as it implied that other senior figures were a “bunch of numpties”.

The former MSP also said he had changed his mind on how SPA board members should be appointed, arguing that Holyrood, not the Government, should have this responsibility.

As the oversight body for Police Scotland, the SPA is supposed to hold the chief constable to account and help set the budget for the service.

However, the SPA's performance has been criticised after Audit Scotland reported a potential £188 million deficit in the policing budget.

The SPA decision to move to private committee sessions, as well as only releasing board papers on the day of the meeting, has also generated reams of negative publicity.

MacAskill, who pioneered the legislation that created the single force and the SPA, offered a frank assessment of the watchdog four years on from its creation.

The SPA, which is also in charge of senior appointments at the force, last year hired David Page as Police Scotland’s first Director of Corporate Services, Strategy and Change. His salary is in line with what a deputy chief constable earns.

MacAskill said: “I think bringing in this hot-shot finance guy from outwith was just bonkers. I’m not sure what that did other than imply that they were all a bunch of numpties at a senior level.

“This idea of a super-director is either an insult to senior officers or an insult to previous incumbents. I just think they were trying to do something when in fact all they were doing was spending a lot of money.”

He described the salary as “incredible” and the creation of the new role as “nuts.”

On how SPA board members should be appointed, he now backed parliamentary approval: “I think that would be a good thing. I think there is a point to that and that would help it. I would have no problem with that at all.”

Other policing experts were also critical of the SPA’s performance. Graeme Pearson, a former Director General of the Scottish Crime and Enforcement Agency, said: “The SPA has been a very poor organisation to instil governance. There hasn’t been a great deal of accountability over the last four or five years.”

Calum Steele, the General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “The SPA has not been a success. It needs to change its approach and it needs to be much more engaging with the considerations of local communities.”

Moi Ali, who resigned from the SPA this year amid a row over transparency, has also stepped up her criticism of the board.

At the December meeting of the SPA, Ali objected to the private committee plan and the move to publishing board papers at short notice. Board chair Andrew Flanagan then wrote her a private letter in which he expressed dismay at her public criticism. She resigned from the board.

Flanagan was forced to explain Ali's resignation in front of MSPs earlier this year, but his evidence was challenged by Ali.

He has been called back by the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee for a further evidence session this week.

In an email ahead of the MSP meeting, Ali wrote: “It is hard to understand how the axing of public committee meetings and the late publication of papers is driven by a desire to increase transparency.”

A spokesperson for the SPA said: "Policing has been the subject of significant scrutiny and in the last 12 months the SPA has enhanced governance of the service by setting strong expectations and creating the right environment for Police Scotland to be held effectively to account, and be seen to be held to account.

"Within the SPA we have improved our oversight of policing in areas where there were early problems – like stop and search, counter corruption, and call handling modernisation. The capability of the SPA Board has been enhanced and strengthened to ensure there are the right level of skills and knowledge in areas like finance, HR, policing, IT, audit and human rights. Importantly, the SPA is also strengthening transparency of its decision-making by ensuring these are taken at a Board level and during more frequent public board meetings.”