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Davidson accuses Justice Secretary of leaning on police watchdog

The Tory leader raised Michael Matheson’s involvement in the chief constable’s employment status at First Minister’s Questions.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has accused the Justice Secretary of “leaning” on the police watchdog to prevent the chief constable from returning to work.

Controversy surrounding Phil Gormley’s employment status was raised by Ms Davidson for the second week running at Holyrood’s First Minister’s Questions.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee heard on Thursday that Michael Matheson told the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) they made a “bad decision” in ruling Scotland’s top police officer could return to work while misconduct allegations were being carried out.

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Nicola Sturgeon

Mr Matheson has previously insisted his concerns about the decision were related to the processes the SPA board had followed, saying those investigating the allegations against Mr Gormley and other senior officers had not been informed about the decision they day before the chief constable was due to return.

Ms Davidson said evidence to the committee from former SPA chair Andrew Flanagan had revealed Mr Matheson’s involvement “went far beyond” asking questions.

“Last week the First Minister stood there and told this chamber nine times that her Justice Secretary did nothing but ask a few questions,” she said.

“But we now know that is not true, we know that he made it clear that the SPA’s decision was wrong.

“She says that Mr Matheson didn’t instruct the process, but we now know that the SPA’s former chair left his second meeting with the Justice Secretary feeling that he had no choice but to overturn the authority’s decision.

“Last week the First Minister stood here and told me that Mr Matheson did not intervene, but doesn’t the evidence of this morning show there is a different story there,

Nicola Sturgeon said the evidence showed “no such thing”, adding that “Andrew Flanagan…actually said at the committee this morning that he hadn’t been requested by the Justice Secretary to change his decision, he had no option in his view but to change his decision because he couldn’t answer the most basic questions about the process that had been followed”.

She said: “The nub of this issue is this one, if Ruth Davidson is saying that the Justice Secretary should not have asked these questions, should not have acted in the way that he did, then by definition she must be saying that the chief constable should simply have been allowed to return to wok no matter the fact that none of these basic steps had been followed.”

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