First chief constable ousted in secret SNP plot, says MacAskill
THE first boss of Scotland’s single police force was ousted in a secret plot by the Scottish Government, former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has claimed.
Mr MacAskill suggested that Sir Stephen House was removed in a bid to stop negative coverage of Police Scotland’s chaotic early days.
In April 2015, Nicola Sturgeon told officers at their annual conference that no chief constable should be a ‘law unto themselves’, seen as a thinly veiled attack on Sir Stephen, who quit four months later.
It came after he was criticised for issuing a secretive order allowing officers to carry out routine duties wearing handguns.
In August 2015, Sir Stephen announced he would quit in the wake of the M9 tragedy, when a woman was left dying by the roadside for three days following call-handling blunders.
A Scottish Tory spokesman said: ‘It is a bit rich for the man who was the main architect of Police Scotland to attempt to deflect blame for the mess he helped to make.
‘It shows just how chaotic the SNP has been on policing when it fought so hard to remove a chief constable of a force it created.’
Commenting on Sir Stephen’s departure, Mr MacAskill said: ‘Whilst their fingerprints may not be upon him, it’s clear that there was a will to have him go at the very top of government.
‘Perhaps it was assumed that removing him would bring an end to negative headlines. There may have been some basis in that as criticism was highly personalised.’
He said Sir Stephen’s actions on armed officers ‘saw opposition politicians… behind them berate him’.
Mr MacAskill added: ‘However, as with the best-laid plans, matters have gone awry with his successor’s difficulties.’
The former minister’s comments come after Sir Stephen’s successor, Phil Gormley, stepped aside from the chief’s job last week amid
‘Shows how chaotic SNP has been’
bullying investigations, leaving his deputy Iain Livingstone in charge.
Writing in The Herald yesterday, Mr MacAskill said: ‘In many ways, Mr Gormley was the accidental chief constable.
‘It appeared that, for the new regime at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), it was as simple as your ABCs – Anyone But a Chief from Scotland. The media frenzy about mistakes and tragedies resulted in a recruit being sought from outside.’
Mr MacAskill said that ‘accordingly, heir apparent Iain Livingstone and, ironically, the present acting chief in Mr Gormley’s absence, was passed over’.
He added: ‘It’s suggested that the Government favoured his appointment but it most certainly didn’t seek it as hard as it sought his former boss’s removal.’
Sir Stephen was unavailable for comment.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Police Scotland and the chief constable are accountable to the SPA rather than ministers.’
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson made a parliamentary statement yesterday to respond to claims of a growing police leadership crisis.
Mr Matheson said Mr Livingstone, now running the force, is a ‘very able and experienced officer, who commands the respect of that workforce’.
Police claims: MacAskill