Cabinet (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 13 June 2013.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

3. To ask the First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. (S4F-01458)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The next meeting of the Cabinet will discuss issues of importance to the people of Scotland.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

When I asked before about divisions within the police, the First Minister laughed and said that it was creative tension. Was he laughing when the chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority resigned in February? The First Minister told me that matters had been resolved, but we now discover that chaos continued at the heart of our newly centralised police force. Why did he not tell the Parliament about the resignation of that senior public leader? That stinks of a cover-up. Why was the Parliament not informed of the resignation of the authority’s chief executive? Just what did the First Minister have to hide?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Vic Emery, the chair of the Scottish Police Authority, said today:

“There is plenty of confidence and continuity at the top of the Scottish Police Authority. Strategic direction and decision-making at the Scottish Police Authority continues to be provided by a board of 13 members. We have all been appointed for a four-year term. Continuity is strong at board level and the organisation is developing and maturing its relationships with both Police Scotland and other stakeholders.”

He also pointed out that he has been before the Parliament on a number of occasions. I do not think that Willie Rennie should conflate interim appointments with permanent ones at the Scottish Police Authority. He should take the word of the chairman of the authority, who says that matters are in hand and that the organisation looks confidently to the future.

Given the spectacular success of the Scottish police service in delivering the lowest rate of recorded crime for a generation and the excellence of its performance across Scotland, a party that is forecasting doom and disaster when all the figures on justice and the effectiveness of the police in Scotland say otherwise is going to be on a hiding to nothing as those points and arguments are replayed to it in the months to come.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The First Minister cannot hide behind the Police Authority’s operational independence. As Andrea Quinn’s letter points out, the Scottish Government has been involved every step of the way on the structure of the new Police Authority. The chief executive was going, but the matter was kept quiet. As a result, we will be without a permanent chief, and we have had three chief executives in just one year. If that is continuity, I do not know what not having continuity is. Why was the recruitment process not started earlier? The First Minister told me that the chaos was sorted in January. Then, in February, Andrea Quinn resigned. We led a police debate in March, but Parliament was not told about that. Did the Government ask the chairman to keep the resignation quiet to avoid embarrassment? Did the Government tell Vic Emery to keep that quiet?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I am not hiding behind operational independence but, certainly, I have no knowledge of anyone in the Government suggesting any such thing to Vic Emery. Vic Emery says not, too. In his statement today, he said:

“changes in personnel are a feature of most mergers and reform programmes”.

The issue of operational independence is not something to hide behind; it is something of fundamental importance. The operational independence of the police service is of huge importance in a democratic society. By definition, it is even more important that the Scottish Police Authority should have operational independence.

In his statement today, Vic Emery said:

“By the end of this month I will have appeared before the Justice Committee on four occasions.”

There will be ample opportunity for Willie Rennie to raise in the Justice Committee any conspiracy theory that comes into his head, assuming he remembers to turn up this time.