FOLLOWING the welcome and overdue decision of Phil Gormley to resign, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is proffering a large, conspicuously poisoned chalice marked “Chief Constable” in the hope of finding enthusiastic takers.

Perhaps, when he took up the post on January 5, 2016, Mr Gormley didn’t know what he was getting into but, as it has turned out, his resignation looks like the first thing he has got right, allowing him in the process to retrieve some dignity, and – we must hope – signifying the start of a new era in which the upper echelons of Police Scotland are not automatically associated with the word “fiasco”.

When the SPA first announced Mr Gormley’s appointment in December 2015, it adduced his experience in uniting diverse law enforcement organisations, which obviously earned a big tick on his CV given the need to get a single police force properly established in Scotland. Mr Gormley, we were led to believe, would bring stability as well as experience in fighting organised criminals, cybercrime and extremism. Alas, fighting one’s own corner politically is another skill entirely, and stability has hardly been the hallmark of his regime. He has been on special leave since last September, at his own request, following complaints of misconduct and bullying against him by fellow senior officers. His name has been bandied about with disdain in Parliament, and he has faced suggestions of coping badly with stressful situations. Let us remember that he had denied all the charges against him (which now fall with his resignation) and that this has been a stressful time for himself and his family. We may also recall in his favour his stated determination to re-empower regional commanders, while noting that his “outsider” status was considered a positive attribute when the national force was trying to lose a reputation for “Strathclydisation”.

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Ironically, it was his wife’s somewhat desperate intervention, claiming that her husband’s outsider status as an Englishman was behind much opposition to him, which proved the last straw for many in the force. The charge was not only easily disprovable (Police Scotland has many valued senior officers from England) but, assuming Mr Gormley approved of his wife’s approach, appeared to offer proof that he lacked perspective and dignity, while offering little understanding of protocol and even – for his own sake – strategy.

By this stage, Mr Gormley had passed the point of no return. At Holyrood, meanwhile, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson was accused of intervening to prevent his return and of misleading Parliament about this, prompting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to defend her minister for having asked only “legitimate questions”. And so the fiasco continued on its way to the top of government.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson has suggested Parliament, as opposed to Government, should have more say in running the police force, an idea that might have more merit in a forum less prone to oppositional bickering for its own sake. Nonetheless, the widespread perception of a highly centralised or even secretive administration does not help matters.

Meanwhile, the search begins for a new Chief Constable. After all the recent turmoil, that is a chalice from which all the poison must now be removed – in plain sight. Inevitably perhaps, speculation focuses on Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone who, last September, announced that he had reconsidered plans to retire, saying he felt “a duty to remain in service”.

That sounds like a man who knows there’s a job to be done, a notion also applicable to the SPA which, among many others, has not come out of this well and which, this time, must be more sure-footed in appointing someone to bring stability, vision and a predisposition to unite rather than divide.