The Scottish Government’s plans to integrate railway policing currently done by the British Transport Police into Police Scotland is no small step and it should be carefully considered
The merging of operations north of the border, the legislation for which was published yesterday, has raised concerns during the consulation phase of risks to the resiience of the network. And this comes at a time when the performance of trains north of the border is under close scrutiny amid government orders to improve the service.
And it has to be said the merging of the forces in Scotland into the creation of Police Scotland has not been without its difficulties.
But the proposals mean that the officers currently in the BTP in Scotland will transfer to Police Scotland bringing with them all their skills, knowledge and experience. Although there are some fears voiced that significant numbers will not want to transfer, steps have been taken to guarantee continuation of conditions and pensions to make it more attractive, and probably if there was going to be a significant problem more could be done.
And it has to be borne in mind that the police already contain a huge range of specialist skills and teams that manage to adequately cover the specialist areas. Traffic policing for instance will require a very similar set of particular skills, knowledge and experience and nobody is suggesting that it become a separate force.
It might be prudent to offer the rail organisations some safeguards over levels of service that the network would get, if only for reassurance, but on the whole the greater flexibility this could bring probably makes it a sensible thing to do.