Susan Deacon has resigned as chair of Scotland’s police watchdog, describing the system as “fundamentally flawed “.
The former Labor MSP was appointed to the Scottish Police Authority in.
But in her resignation letter, she said there was “little more” she could do to make the governance and accountability of policing work effectively.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said “significant progress” had been made and the service was “in a much stronger place” than before her appointment.
Prof Deacon was the third chair of the SPA since it began work in April 2013 alongside the launch of Scotland’s single police service.
When she was appointed in 2017, then justice secretary Michael Matheson said she would “bring a fresh perspective to the governance of Scottish policing “.
Prof Deacon said she had worked” tirelessly “to ensure the SPA operated effectively, and that public confidence and trust in policing was maintained.
“In truth, however, I have increasingly become convinced that the governance and accountability arrangements for policing in Scotland are fundamentally flawed, in structure, culture and practice, and I conclude that there is little more I can do to make these arrangements work effectively, “she said.
“I would suggest that the Scottish government thinks afresh about how the police service is scrutinised and held to account and how, or if, a better separation between politics and policing, and indeed between the police service and those who oversee it, can be achieved. “
It has not been an easy two years for Susan Deacon as chair of the Scottish Police Authority.
She was appointed in December 2017 following turmoil in the authority which was seen as lacking transparency in its dealings, and was rocked by accusations of bullying surrounding the previous chair, Andrew Flanagan.
The police service which she was to oversee, was also in turmoil with aseries of allegations of gross misconductbeing investigated against the chief constable, Phil Gormley, who resigned in early 2018.
Prof Deacon has been credited with making the actions of the authority, whose role is to hold Police Scotland to account, more transparent .
And in her resignation letter, she said the police service was in a much stronger place than when she was appointed.
But it is her criticism of the way the national force is scrutinised and held to account which will cause concern, particularly her view that current governance and accountability arrangements are fundamentally flawed.
It was a view shared by HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Gill Imrie, who told Holyrood’s Justice Committee on Tuesday that senior officers at Police Scotland had become “frustrated” by the lack of scrutiny.
In anearlier report, Ms Imrie had said there was “no clear vision, strategy or plan in place” for the SPA.
Policing inevitably is a highly political matter, but Prof Deacon said the government must review the separation between politics and policing, and said she felt there was little more she could do in the role.
Mr Yousaf has written to the Scottish parliament’s justice committee confirming that he has accepted Ms Deacon’s resignation.
He said: “During her tenure there has been significant improvement across many facets of the police service in Scotland, not least due to her role in the appointment of experienced and talented individuals to both the SPA board and to Police Scotland’s leadership team.
“As Ms Deacon herself acknowledges, our police service is in a much stronger place now than prior to her appointment. “
Mr Yousaf added:” I am encouraged that significant progress has been made and remain committed to this going forward. “
The SPA’s vice chair, David Crichton, will take over leadership of the authority’s board on an interim basis.
He said Prof Deacon had taken up the role during a period of “considerable instability in the police service “.
“We believe that the system of governance and accountability for policing in Scotland that was envisaged by the founding legislation is a sound one and can work effectively, “he added.
” While we respect this personal decision of the chair, our collective focus will be on working together with our dedicated staff team to build on recent progress, deliver the actions and improvements already identified, and redouble the SPA’s focus on the issues of greatest importance to policing and the public. “
The Scottish Police Federation said Prof Deacon’s resignation was not a surprise.
Its chair, Andrea MacDonald, said: “It has been apparent to the Scottish Police Federation that the authority has not been operating effectively for some time .
“It is nonetheless disappointing that we now see the Scottish Police Authority looking for its fourth chair in six years.”
Ms Deacon’s predecessorAndrew Flanagan resigned after heavy criticismfrom two Holyrood committees over governance and transparency at the SPA, with MSPs calling for him to go.
In a letter to the then justice secretary, Mr Flanagan said he would step down to avoid being a “distraction” to the new 10 – year policing strategy.
He also said the “personalized” debate had “impacted on me and my family”.
The SPA’s first chairman, Vic Emery, stepped down in September 2015 after deciding not to seek an extension to his contract.
He had been involved in a number of public spats with the first chief constable of the new police service, Sir Stephen House.