SO Phil Gormley has quit.

With seven official complaints hanging over his head it was unlikely the former Chief Constable could command respect or cooperation in Police Scotland even if he was finally cleared. Meanwhile, endless gardening leave from a £214k top job has drawn comment and criticism. Last weekend a newspaper contributed a new strand to the row, publishing emails which showed the head of police watchdog Pirc felt civil servants were trying to prevent publication of her report about complaint handling at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

Of course the SNP pointed out Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) Kate Frame went ahead and published her critical report anyway and that it was a civil servant not the Justice Minister who got in touch with her. But the row threatened to unseat Michael Matheson who must have heaved an almighty sigh of relief yesterday and hoped Gormley’s resignation after less than two years as Scotland’s Chief Constable will finally draw a line under the unhappy Police Scotland saga.

That’s unlikely to happen. It was the premature departure of Police Scotland’s first Chief Constable Stephen House -- who stepped down after rows about arming officers on routine patrols, stopping and searching children and downsizing call-handling to remote operators with no local knowledge – that prompted the appointment of “safe pair of hands” Gormley. Now he too has quit. Are the problems at Police Scotland simply to do with personality, or poor choices of top cop or are they deeper?

Predictably the blow-by-blow account of Complaintsgate last month avoided all the truly important matters of substance raised by the Pirc. In fact, her report was the third about complaint-handling since the SPA was formed in 2013 to oversee Police Scotland.

In her report Kate Frame said the SPA doesn’t adequately explain how decisions are made, does take an “excessive” amount of time to resolve complaints, makes “inappropriate demands” for evidence from public critics and has no policy to protect whistle-blowers. With former Labour Minister Susan Deacon appointed as SPA chief early this year, the Scottish Government must hope criticisms here will also die away.

Again, that seems a bit optimistic since the SPA is the Scottish Government’s creation.

And of course, the single police force itself has unquestionably concentrated power, destroyed local accountability, produced call centres which leave urgent calls “un-actioned,” and ended the chance for Scottish officers to prove themselves by promotion within the ranks. These difficulties aren’t going away. The same is true of the appointment process itself. A very small number of people within the Scottish Government were responsible for selecting all the individuals whose appointments have proved so problematic – the sacked SPA Chairman Andrew Flanagan, the suspended Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Phil Gormley and indeed his predecessor Stephen House.

Sure, the SNP modelled the SPA on Nordic countries. But Norway’s single police force is underpinned by 422 powerful, municipal councils. Scotland’s single force has “input” from just 32 “local” authorities and is not really accountable any more. In the old days councillors hired and fired local chief constables – no longer.

Physical access to police stations has been reduced at the same time that local control has gone; local decision-making by community-based officers has been replaced by centralised diktat and local control rooms have been closed. That’s way too much central control. In 2016, then Cosla president David O’Neill said Police Scotland needed to “develop new arrangements which will hand some meaningful control over policing back to our communities”. Phil Gormley agreed but little happened. It has to happen now.

It may be too late to dismantle Police Scotland as a single force – though many cops favour the creation of three separate forces – north, east and west. But if one central command structure remains, local accountability and decision-making must be restored and the appointment process for the next chief constable democratised.

I never thought I’d say this, but I agree with Willie Rennie. It’s not at all clear Police Scotland is fit for purpose and an immediate review would clear the air and restore some confidence before existing errors are simply compounded. Of course, that’s not likely to happen – partly because the SNP don’t want the negative headlines but mostly because the current acting deputy Iain Livingstone is the safe and popular pair of hands Police Scotland has needed for a very long time.

It’s believed Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Police Federation all wanted him to succeed Stephen House in 2015, but Livingstone was passed over when rumours broke about his involvement in a spying scandal. Shortly afterwards, Livingstone announced he was quitting at the relatively tender age of just 50.

According to a former senior officer, “That was beyond belief and showed how deep the problem is at Police Scotland. Appointments at executive level have been disastrous. Where is the Scottish Government getting advice from?”

There are other problems which have been obscured by the media’s focus on Phil Gormley. Last July, Police Scotland had to apologise when the Pirc found officers didn’t respond properly to four calls from the public about Andrew Bow, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome, whose flat was a short walk from an Edinburgh police station. When officers were finally sent, they found Mr Bow dead. Pirc heard from staff in the Bilston Glen control room that “urgent” calls could remain “un-actioned” for days. That’s the same control room which failed to process a call from the public in 2015 after a crash near the M9. Three days later John Yuill was found dead – and his partner Lamara Bell died in hospital.

But despite ongoing evidence of call handling problems at Bilston Glen, other control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness have been closed, and their command and control responsibilities shifted to Dundee. Is that OK?

Meanwhile officers have to contend with ageing vehicles, stations in poor repair, fewer officers than ever on response policing and restrictions on overtime.

Last year, Police Scotland was also forced to confirm it had recruited nearly 800 informants in three years and was losing officers in the British Transport Police ahead of its controversial integration into Police Scotland before 2019. In short, police morale is at an all-time low for structural reasons and not just because the top cop has twice been chosen from south of the Border – though that hasn’t helped. House in particular brought heavy-handed policing methods north from his stint in the Metropolitan Police, including his disastrous change to stop and search policy.

The next Chief Constable may well be a Scot – but after that? There are no local chief constables north of the Border any more so it’s hard for younger officers to compete against more experienced English cops seeking to move north – after all, Scotland is now the second largest force in Britain.

Is all of this what the Scottish Government expected when it set up the single Police Scotland force?

I suspect not.

Politically it’s probably naïve to call for time out to reconsider the whole thing. But Police Scotland now looks like an eminently rudderless ship.

Surely the public and bobbies on the beat can expect better?