Federation asks for alternatives to ‘reckless’ railway merger

Officers have urged the Scottish government to consider alternatives to the full integration of Police Scotland and British Transport Police (BTP).

Apr 23, 2018
By Kevin Hearty

Plans to combine Police Scotland with BTP’s operations north of the border were put on hold earlier this year due to concerns over the merger’s timescale.

Now the BTP Federation (BTPF) is claiming the time is right to review other options for changing BTP’s governance, such as devolving railway policing to Scotland.

In evidence presented to the Scottish parliament, the staff association claims current proposals could put lives at risk and incur additional costs of up to £500,000 per officer.

BTPF chair Nigel Goodband also urged MSPs to address the “mistrust” and “lack of confidence” among his members in those charged with delivering the integration.

Mr Goodband said: “Dismissing this suggestion or exploring any alternatives without exploring the benefits (or otherwise) is, we believe, somewhat reckless and goes against the drive for greater transparency in decision-making, greater accountability to the people of Scotland and would only support the view that the Scottish Government do not consider that keeping the public safe is a government priority.”

The BTPF has opposed the planned merger from its early stages due to fears over how it will affect officers’ morale and their terms and conditions.

In its submission, the association criticised the absence of any detail behind the Scottish government’s promise of a “triple-lock guarantee” on pensions, as well as the poor clarity over how officers will continue to be represented.

Other concerns relate to the lack of meaningful engagement during the planning process, the potential loss of specialist railway policing skills and experience, and the delivery of fit-for-purpose ICT systems.

There is currently no seamless ICT system in place in Police Scotland, and anything introduced would have to mirror how BTP’s computers work as well as integrating with the force’s operations in England and Wales.

The source of funding for the merger has also not been made clear, as suggestions to finance it through the Police Transformation budget would have an inevitable impact on Police Scotland.

The BTPF estimates that the cost of transferring every BTP Scotland officer into the national force could range between £225,000 and £500,000 per individual.

Scottish Conservatives justice spokesperson Liam Kerr described the evidence in the report as “damning”.

He added: “[The SNP’s] merger plan to merge British Transport Police with Police Scotland is going to cost public money, leave us with a worse service than we have now, and potentially threaten public safety.

“Why would any responsible government continue with it?”

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “We are committed to the safe and seamless integration of BTP into Police Scotland, which Parliament voted for when it passed the Railway Policing Act.

“This will deliver continuity of service for rail users and staff and a single command structure, with seamless access to wider support facilities and specialist resources.”

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