Rail policing to be taken over by Police Scotland

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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Controversial plans for railway policing to be taken over by Police Scotland have received final approval by MSPs.

The merger of British Transport Police (BTP) north of the Border with the national force was agreed yesterday by 68 votes to 53.

The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats opposed the move, which followed powers being devolved by the Smith Commission.

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The British Transport Police Federation also fought it.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said the prime objective was to protect and advance the high standards of safety and security on Scotland’s railways.

He also sought to allay fears from BTP officers by pledging to retain the “triple lock” guarantee over their jobs, pay and pensions.

Mr Yousaf said they would “transfer over without any detriment to their terms and conditions”.

He said the merger would provide specialist resources to protect the railways, such as in counter-terrorism.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said it would bring “a level of scrutiny over BTP that we have never had before in this country”.

However, opposition MSPs claimed the move simply followed SNP dogma.

Dumfriesshire Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell said: “This ill-judged and ill-thought out idea is before us for one reason and one reason only - this SNP Scottish Government’s constitutional and ideological obsession with control.”

He said it “goes to the heart of everything that has gone wrong on their watch”.

Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby agreed it had been a “political choice” rather then necessary, and the railways would not be policed better or passengers be safer.

Labour justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said: “The SNP failed to listen to the long list of industry experts and railroaded this Bill through Parliament.

“There are clear financial and operational questions that still remain unanswered. This is an expensive plan to fix a problem that isn’t broken.”

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “Ministers made up their minds long ago that they were right, and that those in the sector...were all wrong. That is neither sensible, nor healthy, but it is sadly characteristic.”

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne said: “Police Scotland acknowledges the decision of the Scottish Parliament and will look to build on the good work of BTP to sustain and improve the delivery of policing services and meet the needs of the travelling public and rail industry across Scotland.”

READ MORE: Scottish Government urged to drop transport police merger plan