The first woman chief constable of Police Scotland has been appointed.

Jo Farrell, chief constable of Durham Constabulary, will succeed Sir Iain Livingstone, who retires in August.

Ms Farrell was in charge of the force in the North East of England when it conducted its inquiry into "beergate allegations" against Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Her recruitment follows two days of interviews with the Scottish Police Authority with the appointment approved by the Justice Secretary Angela Constance.

In a statement this morning Ms Constance welcomed the appointment of Ms Farrell.

She said: “I am delighted that Jo Farrell has been appointed as Police Scotland’s new Chief Constable following the Scottish Police Authority’s rigorous selection process.

“Jo is the first women to be appointed to this role. As the force marks its 10th anniversary year, she has shown she has the skills needed to lead the service into the next decade and meet the challenges ahead.

READ MORE: Operation Branchform: Police chief rejects attacks on SNP probe

“Thanks to the dedication and work of the police, recorded crime rates overall are at record low levels and we have a service that is unique in the UK with an embedded human rights focus.

“Policing will continue to be an absolute priority for this government, as evidenced by the £1.45 billion we have allocated to support it in 2023-24. I look forward to working with the new Chief Constable as the service continues to build on its significant strengths.

“I also want to pay tribute to Sir Iain for his bold leadership and wider service to keeping communities safe during a lengthy, distinguished career in policing. He leaves Police Scotland in great shape after leading it through unprecedented times.”

Ms Farrell and Police Scotland's deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham were the only two applicants for the £232,000 a year job. The final interviews are understood to have taken place this week and were conducted by a panel from the SPA.

Ms Farrell's contract at the Durham force was extended last June by three years, shortly before Labour leader Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner were cleared of breaching lockdown regulations after being pictured drinking beer and eating a takeaway curry with party colleagues.

Sir Keir and Ms Rayner attended the event in Durham in April 2021 when strict lockdown rules were in place. Durham Police carried out a two-month investigation and concluded there had been no breach of the ban on indoor mixing as the gathering was work-related.

Ms Farrell later argued the 'Beergate' probe was necessary to maintain public confidence in policing and the decision to investigate was taken because of the 'weight of material' passed to the force.

When she was made Durham's Chief Constable in June 2019, Ms Farrell became the first woman to hold the £156,958-a-year post in the 180-year history of the force.
She started her career as a constable in Cambridge in 1991. Last year, she said: 'Although I don't have any family connection with the police, I always wanted to join and was so proud when I first became an officer.'

The role of chief constable of Police Scotland became available after Sir Iain dramatically announced he was quitting in February, two years ahead of his contract ending.

At the time, he warned his force was facing 'unsustainable' funding pressures. Sir Iain had previously said his officers would no longer be able to investigate certain crimes due to budgetary pressures and 'systemic under-funding'.

Last month he sensationally made the announcement in his final statement to the SPA that his force was "institutional racist".

He also robustly defended the long running police investigation into SNP's the finances and the search by his officers of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon's home. The search in April had been criticised as being very heavy handed and over the top.

Speaking to The Herald, Mr Livingstone would not say whether he believed Police Scotland's Operation Branchform would be completed by the time he left the force in August.

"I can't put any time limit on that," he said last month. "The investigation will take its course. It shouldn't be driven by political timescales and it shouldn't be driven by personal timescales that I have or any other officer has."

Prior to Operation Branchform, Police Scotland also carried out a high profile investigation into allegations made against former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Mr Salmond was acquitted in 2020 of 13 sexual assault charges against nine women following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.