Former Labour health minister appointed as new chair of the Scottish Police Authority

Written by Jenni Davidson on 16 November 2017 in News

Susan Deacon will take over from Andrew Flanagan from the beginning of December

Susan Deacon - Image credit: Susan Deacon

Former health minister Susan Deacon has been appointed as the new chair of the Scottish Police Authority.

Deacon was a Labour MSP from 1999 to 2007 and became the first minister for health and community care in Donald Dewar’s cabinet after devolution.

She will replace Andrew Flanagan, who resigned from the post in June after being criticised by two parliamentary committees and HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary over issues of transparency and his treatment of former board member Moi Ali.

Prior to her election, Deacon spent seven years in local government, followed by senior roles in management training and development in the private sector and higher education, including as director of the MBA programme at Heriot-Watt University.

Since standing down from parliament a decade ago, Deacon has held a number of positions on boards and has contributed to governance and policy reviews, including the Joining the Dots report on early years for the Scottish Government in her role as early years champion.

She has also held positions at the Queen Margaret University and the University of Edinburgh.  


Deacon is currently assistant principal external relations at the University of Edinburgh, chair of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, chair of the Edinburgh Festivals Forum and a non-executive director of Lothian Buses.

She was awarded a CBE for services to business, education and public service in this year’s New Year’s honours.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said he was “delighted” to appoint Deacon to the “important and high profile role”.

He said: “As a former parliamentarian and minister with considerable experience in high profile board posts, she will bring a fresh perspective to the governance of Scottish policing.

“While this is a challenging role, I fully expect her to bring strong leadership and relationship building skills and fully engage with the wide range of parties with an interest in policing.”

Deacon said: “The issues facing the SPA have been well documented and there is much to be learned from what has gone before, but my focus now is on the future. 

“Policing is one of our nation’s most important public services, and I look forward to working with colleagues in the SPA and in Police Scotland in addressing the challenges and opportunities ahead.

She added that “building trust, confidence and relationships is key” and would be a focus of her efforts from the outset.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, one of two committees that had heavily criticised governance at the SPA, expressed the hope that the new appointment would end the “culture of secrecy”.

Acting committee convener Jackie Baillie said: “We hope the culture of secrecy at the SPA will be in the past now that there is a new chair at the helm.

“This is desperately needed in order to restore public confidence in how policing is run in Scotland.”

The appointment was welcomed by Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who echoed the committee’s call for change and a restoration of public confidence.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: "I congratulate Susan Deacon on her appointment. 

“She is very experienced and has a wide range of skills, which will be needed as she inherits an organisation under immense pressure.

“The SPA has faced a deluge of bad news over the past twelve months, from accusations of a culture of secrecy to a breakdown of managerial relationships.

"It is essential that the new chair works with the incoming chief executive to get to grips with these challenges so that public confidence can be restored going forward." 

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson Claire Baker said: “I welcome the appointment of Susan Deacon as the new chair of the SPA.

“I am sure that her expertise will be invaluable as the organisation looks to learn from the mistakes of the past.  

“This must be the start of the SPA regaining the public’s confidence following a series of blunders and controversies.

“With a new chair in place we must now look forward to ensuring the SPA is equipped in holding Police Scotland to account.”

Baker also welcomed the Scottish Parliament being allowed some involvement in the process, with Justice Sub-Committee on Policing convener Mary Fee representing MSPs on the appointment panel along with the Scottish Government. 

But she called for a look at changing legislation so that the Scottish Parliament would have a full role in any future appointments.

Deacon will take up the four-year post on Monday 4 December.

This appointment is part-time and attracts a remuneration of £530 per day for a part-time commitment of 12 days per month, which equates to £76,320 a year.



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