Around two-thirds of British Transport Police officers are unsure whether they will transfer to Police Scotland following a controversial merger.
An internal staff survey obtained by The Scotsman shows just 35 per cent of BTP officers and 45 per cent of civilian staff intend to move across once railway policing is integrated into the national force.
Sixteen per cent of employees said they were considering leaving BTP before integration but were waiting for more information before deciding. The figure rose to around 20 per cent for police officers.
Legislation passed last year by Holyrood will see Police Scotland assume responsibility for railway policing from March 2019 despite concerns from the railway industry, staff associations and trade unions.
A paper presented to the Scottish Police Authority board last month identified officers and staff leaving BTP ahead of integration as a key risk associated with the project. It followed claims from the British Transport Police Federation that a small number of officers had already left to join specialist forces elsewhere in Scotland, while others were seeking transfers to England amid continuing frustration about being kept “in the dark” by the Scottish Government over its plans.
There are around 3,000 BTP officers in the UK, around 200 of whom are based in Scotland.
More than 150 BTP employees – around three-quarters of them police officers – took part in the online survey, which was carried out in September.
While the poll found many unsure about their future, only 1 per cent of respondents said they had already decided to leave. More than a fifth of employees (22 per cent) said they had yet to make a decision and were unable to associate themselves with any of the other options.
A commentary published alongside the survey said: “The key theme running through a great majority of responses was that participants didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision about their future employment – either within BTP or out with BTP.”
A report published last year by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland described the merger as an “entirely” political decision.
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, said: “There has never been a need for this merger but the SNP has pressed on, despite all the warnings. This survey highlights that hard-working British Transport Police officers are being forced out of their jobs, or being forced to make life-altering decisions through no fault of their own.
“A drop in numbers like this will obviously have a very negative effect on the capability of the Scottish police force which, itself, is still emerging from a period of difficulty.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is fully committed to ensuring that policing in Scotland has a strong and robust future that delivers high safety standards for passengers, staff and the rail industry. We have given a triple-lock guarantee to secure the jobs, pay and pensions of railway policing officers and staff in Scotland and, together with Police Scotland, we met with the BTP Federation in mid-December for three days to discuss terms and conditions of service and this important work will continue.
“The integration of railway policing into Police Scotland, as approved by the Parliament in June 2017, will provide a single command structure, with seamless access to wider support facilities and specialist resources of the second largest police service in the UK”.