LABOUR have called for Justice Secretary Michael Matheson to resign after he was accused of misleading Parliament by the disgruntled ex-chief of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

Speaking to Holyrood’s Audit Committee, Andrew Flanagan, a former chairman of the SPA disputed Matheson’s statement to MSPs earlier this month.

Last November, under Flanagan’s leadership, the SPA voted to allow belgeaured Chief Constable Phil Gormley to come back to work, despite allegations of bullying and an investigation by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

Two weeks ago Matheson told MSPs he’d only found out about the SPA decision two days after it had been agreed and less than 24 hours before Gormley was due to start.

He then spoke to Flanagan and asked if due process had been followed, and that if the SPA had checked with both the force leadership and Pirc as to whether this was appropriate.

That then led to the SPA telling Gormley they’d reversed their decision.

His lawyers have accused the Justice Secretary of acting unlawfully.

Yesterday, Flanagan said the minister had told him the SPA had made a “bad decision” and effectively made it clear that he did not want Gormley to return.

The former SPA chairman told the committee: “I met with [Matheson], I can’t remember the exact date, but it was in early November, and explained the circumstances and he told me he thought it was a bad decision. It was clear to me that he did not want the Chief Constable to return at that point.”

The issue dominated the first part of First Minister’s Questions, with Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson attacking Nicola Sturgeon for defending her justice secretary.

Sturgeon replied: “The nub of this issue is this one, if Ruth Davidson is saying that the Justice Secretary should not have asked these questions, should not have acted in the way that he did, then by definition she must be saying that the Chief Constable should simply have been allowed to return to work no matter the fact that none of these basic steps had been followed.”

Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Daniel Johnson, said:“It is clear that Michael Matheson has behaved inappropriately”