Demand for answers over controversial rail police merger

Opposition parties and unions have demanded clarity from the Justice Secretary after it emerged that the Scottish Government is considering scrapping the controversial planned merger of the British Transport Police with Police Scotland.

The BTP is to be integrated into Police Scotland

Scottish Labour has written to Humza Yousaf calling on him to publicly commit to a U-turn, and the TSSA transport workers’ union said the Justice Secretary must follow through on reports of a rethink.

It follows the revelation in The Scotsman at the weekend that ministers were considering other options to give the Scottish Parliament greater control of the British Transport Police north of the Border, short of a full merger that has been fiercely criticised. Senior officers and staff, including the newly-appointed Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, have raised concerns about the cost and operational difficulties involved in the merger, particularly in relation to IT systems and different contractual terms.

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Labour’s justice and transport spokespeople, the MSPs Daniel Johnson and Colin Smyth, have written to Mr Yousaf asking for clarification, and calling for an assurance that terms and conditions for British Transport Police employees won’t be eroded.

“I hope reports are correct that Humza Yousaf is finally listening to Labour, police officers and railway workers and looking for an alternative,” Mr Johnson said.

“It’s important Mr Yousaf now looks at this and ensures a full cost-benefit analysis is undertaken between his current plans and the federation’s alternative commissioned service model.”

The Scottish Conservatives have also opposed the merger, and have called on the government to “make clear exactly what it intends to do”.

Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA, said he would be contacting the Justice Secretary to confirm what his stance is on a merger he said was “unworkable” and motivated by “blinkered nationalist ideology”.

Mr Cortes said: “Let’s face it, neither force have ever thought that this would be viable, let alone deliver a safer railway.

“We now hope he’ll follow this through by binning the merger before it wastes further police time and resources.”

The Scottish Government has confirmed a “re-planning exercise” is underway.