12 December 2017

(S5T-00813) Police Governance

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the cabinet secretary agree that the addition of substantial experience of public service and of Government to the SPA will greatly enhance its oversight responsibilities. In particular, will he expect of the new chair that improvements will continue throughout her term of office and that quick fixes will be suspect?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): It is worth reiterating that last week’s report from Audit Scotland has already demonstrated the significant progress that has improved overall governance and financial accountability in the Police Scotland and SPA budgets. This is the first time that the audit report has not modified their accounts, which recognises the progress that has been made in accountability and transparency in the accounts’ processes.

The new chair of the SPA has already said that she intends to address the issues that Audit Scotland raised in the report in order to ensure that the SPA drives forward further improvement on the issues, and that she intends to learn lessons where they can be learned. I have no doubt that Susan Deacon will bring to the organisation considerable leadership and skill that she has gained from her time in Parliament and in the public and private sectors over recent years.

Alongside that, Kenneth Hogg, as the new chief officer in the Scottish Police Authority, brings considerable experience from the public sector and of transformation of public agencies. I have no doubt that both will bring considerable leadership to the organisation. Members should be reassured by their commitment to learning lessons and to addressing the issues that were highlighted in this year’s Audit Scotland report.

Forties Pipeline

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the minister have any knowledge of the nature of the problem that has occurred in the pipeline? More fundamentally, does he know how the information about that failure may be shared with other pipeline operators to ensure that we have the best possible chance of this event being a one-off?

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy (Paul Wheelhouse): Mr Stevenson makes a very reasonable point about learning lessons from this and relaying any issues around good practice to other pipeline operators as swiftly as can be done. Obviously the Health and Safety Executive is not a devolved agency, but I am sure that it will take a very keen interest in this to ensure that something can be done to prevent a similar risk to safety from occurring in future. That is something that we very much need to take forward.

It appears that there is a crack or breach in the pipe. As yet, we do not have a confirmed cause for that failure, which goes to the heart of what is being said about the cause. We have to understand whether it is metal fatigue or another internal cause, or whether something externally damaged the pipe and thereby caused the crack. We do not have an answer to that question yet, but I certainly commit to furnish those answers to members in the chamber who have an interest once we have identified the cause.

Stewart Stevenson
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