POLICE Scotland’s beleaguered Chief Constable must go, former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has said.

The former SNP minister said his successor Michael Matheson was right to have intervened in the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) decision to let Phil Gormley return to active duty despite him being under investigation for gross misconduct.

Gormley was put on “special leave” last September, but the board of the SPA voted unanimously to allow him to return in November.

Matheson found out only the day before Gormley was due to start, and asked the SPA’s board if they had followed due process.

He discovered they hadn’t spoken about Gormley’s reinstatement with either the new, temporary leadership team, or those who had made the complaints.

Writing in a daily newspaper, MacAskill said Gormley should not be allowed to “hang around” Police Scotland’s corporate headquarters at Tulliallan “like a bad smell”.

The former justice secretary wrote: “It’s now suggested that investigations have exonerated Phil Gormley. But while his conduct may not have constituted a disciplinary offence, serious questions remain over his leadership style, given that the complaints came from senior colleagues.”

He added: “He should be allowed to depart with dignity, even if it means buying out the remainder of his contract. But go he must, for the good of the service, as having a harmonious senior command team is fundamental. He cannot provide that.

“The new chair and acting chief need to be allowed to get on with the job unfettered. He cannot hang around Tulliallan like a bad smell.

“A new chief needs recruited, even if it’s hard to see past the current deputy. But it’s time for the SPA to say: ‘Move along quietly, Chief Constable’.”

Meanwhile, LibDem leader Willie Rennie told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland the whole of Police Scotland should be reviewed: “It does call into question something that we’ve been questioning for a long time, which is the whole structure of the Scottish Police Authority, the centralised Police Scotland, because this is not the first of the problems that we’ve seen with Police Scotland.

“We’ve seen a myriad of issues and it’s about time we had a root-and-branch review of Police Scotland to make sure we can avoid these kind of problems happening in the future.”

Matheson later told BBC Radio Scotland it was his duty to ask the SPA to look again at their decision. The Justice Secretary said: “I accept public bodies don’t always get these things right and it is appropriate that, where ministers are aware of that, they take appropriate measures in order to address it.”

Rennie admitted he would “probably” have acted similiarly to Matheson, saying: “It was quite astonishing what the full board of the Scottish Police Authority did.”