IN Raymond Chandler’s 1943 novel The Lady in the Lake, Captain Webber of Bay City Police reflects on the eternal problem of policing in a civilised country when he tells Philip Marlowe: “Police business is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get.” In Scotland it has become increasingly apparent that in police business what we have is also a hell of a problem.

The resignation of Phil Gormley as head of Police Scotland this week was inevitable as it began to emerge that something resembling an orchestrated attempt to remove him has been ongoing for a considerable amount of time. Mr Gormley, who was due to retire next year anyway, had been on special leave as a slew of complaints about bullying began to pile up. The last of five complaints was received just two days after it was revealed that the Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, had intervened to block his return from suspension. Mr Matheson was also at war with the then Chairman of the Scottish Police Authority, Andrew Flanagan, who insisted on limping on in his role despite votes of no confidence in the government and transparency of the SPA. Quite how Mr Flanagan was awarded this post is anyone’s guess. He is part of a mendicant band of CEOs in Scotland who are awarded big posts for no apparent reason and with no discernible track record.

It’s highly unlikely that the public will ever get answers as to why the two chief constables in the five-year history of Scotland’s single police force were forced out before they could serve out their terms or that several other senior cops are absent while other claims are investigated. When it comes to the customs and practices of policing in Scotland the force is a law unto itself. Last month it was announced that seven Police Scotland officers were cleared of misconduct after obtaining communications data without judicial permission as they tried to identify a journalist’s sources. It was reported that the decision not to proceed with the charges followed “an independent investigation”. Yet there was nothing independent about it. The investigation had in fact been carried out by other police officers, in this case from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The circumstances of the investigation were troubling too. These arose from the work done by a former detective inspector which highlighted incompetence or worse in the police investigation into the murder of Emma Caldwell in 2005. Incredibly, rather than follow up the new leads their first act was to seek to bring down a former colleague by questionable means. But hey; move along, nothing to see here.

Last week Mr Matheson moved to block off any scrutiny of alleged illegal spying by undercover police officers in Scotland. This followed the Pitchford Inquiry examining undercover Metropolitan Police officers in England and Wales. UK ministers have said they are unable to extend it to Scotland despite extensive and detailed claims of officers also spying north of the border. Scotland’s Justice Secretary claimed that a separate Scottish inquiry would not be in the public interest. Move on again; nothing to see here either.

Presumably, Mr Matheson doesn’t want us to see anything relating to the violent death in police custody of Sheku Bayoh more than two and a half years ago. Perhaps he’s hoping that this will eventually have slipped the public’s memory. And if there ever is to be an inquiry into Mr Bayoh’s death how independent will it be?

In the debate over the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act perhaps more troubling than issues surrounding the drafting of the legislation itself were the repeated and detailed allegations of rough-house tactics deployed by the police in targeting young supporters. Many of these cases were laughed out of court by judges up and down the country including instances where police officers were deemed effectively to by lying in giving evidence following dawn raids, physical intimidation by kettling and the commonplace practice of police officers training cameras at supporters in football grounds.

It was part of a pattern of widespread police intimidation laid bare in statistics revealing the number of stop and searches carried out by police in Scotland before 2015 including children under the age of 12 and people with learning difficulties. Only press reporting of the sheer volume of these searches forced the police to stop. Such instances of police aggression and vindictiveness carry echoes of their violent conduct during the 1984 Miners Strike at Scottish pits. In this there were detailed allegations of wrongful arrest and collusion with the judiciary and mine bosses hellbent on meting out a lesson to miners and their families with heavy sentences and black-listing.

Much of the focus on Police Scotland will inevitably rest on the move to a single police force five years ago. The cracks in this arrangement – ill-thought through and with scant public consultation – became evident in Police Scotland’s catastrophic attempts to bring in a £46m computer project. The project collapsed, according to AuditScotland because of disagreements between Accenture, the contractors, and the police and Scottish Government. The £46m scheme had been expected to result in £200m savings for the force, savings we were assured were one of the advantages of moving to the single force arrangement in the first place. Don’t expect an inquiry into this either, or into how much another foreign multinational was asked to re-pay the Scottish tax-payer for its part in the shambles. Like any other questions arising from Scottish police incompetence and malfeasance this is off-limits to the public. We’re just expected to keep paying the massive salaries of police executives while looking the other way.

Yet, there is little point now in sifting through the debris of the move to a single police force. There were always going to be teething issues and we need to live with it now. What is much more troubling than executive incompetence is a perception that the force in Scotland is out of control; beyond public scrutiny and criminalising large parts of working class Scotland. In any other public sector the recent customs and practices of this chaotic organisation would long ago have necessitated a wide-ranging and truly independent public examination. Such an outcome though is even more remote than senior police officers being forced to declare their allegiances to secret societies.