More than £700,000 has been spent on private sector consultants as part of the controversial work to integrate railway policing into Police Scotland.
All of this could have been avoided if the SNP had accepted at the start this merger was a non-starterLIAM KERR Conservative justice spokesman
Figures published in response to a parliamentary question show accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) has received £698,000 from the national force as part of two separate contracts.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has been spending £595 a day on an independent consultant contracted through a recruitment firm.
The plan, which would see Police Scotland take over British Transport Police’s (BTP) operations north of the border, looks set to be scrapped after justice secretary Humza Yousaf admitted he was “re-examining all options”. The devolution of railway policing was one of the recommendations of the Smith Commission, published in 2014, but rail unions and staff associations have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to cancel the integration.
Answering a parliamentary question from the Scottish Conservative’s justice spokesman, Liam Kerr, Mr Yousaf said EY had been awarded a £400,000 contract by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) to provide “programme management support”.
A separate £298,000 contract was awarded for the accountancy firm to carry out a due diligence analysis.
Mr Yousaf said the Scottish Government had engaged an independent consultant through Harvey Nash Recruitment at a rate of £595 per day.
Mr Kerr said: “All of this could have been avoided if the SNP had accepted at the start that this merger was a non-starter. Now Humza Yousaf needs to explain why these lucrative contracts, which could potentially cost taxpayers a fortune, have been agreed.”
A report for the SPA last month said the due diligence had shown Police Scotland did not currently have the “capacity and capability” to absorb the work of the BTP.
Kath Murray, a policing researcher at Edinburgh University, said: “It’s not clear whether this is now a live project and resources are still being invested in long-term full integration.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While full integration is a long term goal that will be kept under review, there is a need to identify interim arrangements that could give effect more quickly to the devolution of railway policing.”