POLICE Scotland’s deputy chief has become embroiled in a “needless squabble” with his bosses after being denied a request to keep his Audi after he retires.
Second-in-command Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson is retiring from the force next week after more than 30 years’ service.
At present he drives one of the five Audis in Police Scotland’s “executive fleet”, understood to be worth up to £40,000 each.
But after applying to buy his force Audi for his retirement, the deputy chief has had his request personally blocked by the Chief Constable, Philip Gormley.
Now he has claimed that he has been “singled out” after the SPA – the police watchdog – has informed him that the car is to be returned “as soon as possible”.
SPA correspondence reveals that Mr Richardson, who is thought to earn around £169,000-a-year and to have a substantial pension pot, became embroiled in the row soon after the announcement of his retirement in March.
In a letter May 5 to SPA chairman Andrew Flanagan he wrote of a “final meeting” with the Chief Constable, “during which he expressed some concern regarding my plans to purchase my executive vehicle”.
According to Mr Richardson, he signed a contract at Strathclyde Police – where he worked for a sizeable stint of his career prior to the formation of Police Scotland.
He claims the contract said any outgoing chief constable could buy his vehicle, subject to a valuation.
He also said that a “draft” scheme with the same guidelines was in place at Police Scotland – and was the “working procedure”.
Just days later SPA chief executive John Foley wrote to Mr Richardson to explain that – given the “current financial situation” – he could not approve the sale, as it would require the purchase of a new vehicle to replace it.
Mr Foley also asked to be provided with the date on which the car would be returned.
Fourty-eight hours later Mr Richardson wrote back: “I confess I am a little surprised at the Authority’s position.”
He also asked why he was “being singled out for treatment in this manner.”
The pair eventually agreed that the car would be returned in June.
As of earlier this year, the Police Scotland executive fleet contained five Audis – spanning the A3, A4, A6, Q3 and Q5 models.
They are worth between £23,615 and £40,045 if bought new.
Douglas Ross MSP, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: “At a time when Police Scotland should be addressing its grim financial predicament and sorting staffing issues, it’s involved in this needless squabble.
“It doesn’t look good for either party, and is the kind of scenario which damages public confidence in the force.”
An SPA spokesman said: “All cars purchased for operational use by Police Scotland officers are the property of the SPA, which has a responsibility to ensure the best value for the public purse.
“The car used by DCC Richardson was no exception and we can confirm it was returned in June for operational redeployment within Police Scotland.”
Richardson chose to retire just months after giving evidence in front of the justice committee for the Police Scotland spying scandal.
The investigation came after it was revealed that Police Scotland had breached rules on the use of spying powers in order to identify the sources of journalists.
Richardson was in charge of the counter corruption unit – the team who broke the rules – at the time.
It is thought that his involvement damaged his chances of being named Chief Constable, with the position instead going to London-based Phiip Gormley.