THE head of the body that will hold Scotland’s new police force to account has been condemned for taking a holiday just seven weeks before the biggest law and order shake up in decades.
Andrea Quinn, interim chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), is on a two-week break despite the April 1 start date for Police Scotland.
The merger of eight police forces into one is expected to cause major teething problems and Ms Quinn’s absence was widely condemned yesterday.
The SPA is being run in her absence by the organisation’s spin doctor, John McCroskie.
Ms Quinn, who only took up her current post three months ago, previously ran the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) on a salary of £113,000.
George McIrvine, chairman of Unison’s Scottish police staff committee, which represents civilian workers, said the holiday “smacked of arrogance on a major scale”.
He said: “Our members are fearful of taking holidays or leave and people are working seven days a week to ensure the merger runs as smoothly as possible.
“People are fearful for their jobs and are fearing what will be the unknown come April so for someone to decide to take a holiday sends out the wrong message.”
He added: “How are we going to get value for money when highly-trained civilian staff are losing their jobs through police officers being taken off the street to backfill desk jobs and highly paid chief executives are going on holiday at crucial times?”
Scottish Labour said the break came at precisely the time leadership was needed.
Justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald MSP said: “Given the ongoing difficulties between the SPA and the single police service, and given that we are just two months away from the single force getting up and running, now is an odd time for such a senior figure to choose to go on holiday.
“This is precisely the time when leadership is needed to get the single force up and running.
“I have to wonder why anyone in this position would go off on holiday when they are needed most.”
The SPA and Police Scotland had a very public fall out in November when it emerged both sides had taken legal advice in a squabble over responsibilities.
Stephen House, the chief constable of the new force, and Vic Emery, chairman of the SPA, were told in January to stop “empire building” over their new roles.
Mr House had earlier spoke of confusion over his role and that of Mr Emery, saying he was “gobsmacked” to learn that new legislation meant he would not necessarily be in charge of office staff.
An SPA spokeswoman confirmed Ms Quinn had taken annual leave from last Friday to February 18 but insisted she would be contactable throughout.
She said: “Andrea Quinn, interim Chief Executive of the Scottish Police Authority is an annual leave between Friday 1 February and she will be returning on Monday 18 February.
“Andrea is contactable throughout her leave.
“The arrangements for these two weeks are, John McCroskie, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, is deputising for Andrea on her day-to-day management role and John Geates, interim Chief Executive of the Scottish Police Services Authority, is offering senior strategic support to the Scottish Police Authority team.
The spokeswoman said the SPA’s chief executive was taking an active role in preparing Scotland for the new service.
She continued: “Vic Emery and other SPA board members are actively involved in the day-to-day work to get ready for the day one of the new single service.
“Preparatory work within the Scottish Police Authority is on track and the board will continue to scrutinise the readiness of SPA for day one while Andrea is on leave.
“This does not impact on the board’s ability to make the critical decisions required for day one.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This is a matter for the SPA.”