Humza Yousaf begins search for alternative to Railway policing plan

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf has said controversial railway policing plans have been put on hold and may never be enacted.

Humza Yousaf. Picture: John Devlin

The minister appeared before MSPs yesterday to answers questions about the plan to integrate British Transport Police (BTP) into Police Scotland.

He said there was a “pressing need to find interim arrangements” after Police Scotland were unable to give a start date for the planned integration.

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The Scotsman revealed last month that a plan to merge the two forces looked likely be scrapped amid concern it could take years to get right.

Mr Yousaf yesterday said the work on the integration would be “paused” to allow interim measures to be put in place.

The devolution of railway policing was one of the recommendations of the Smith Commission, published in 2014.

However, parties at Holyrood have been split on the best model to take forward, with rail unions accusing the SNP of putting “Nationalist dogma” above public safety by seeking to replace BTP with Police Scotland.

The merger was originally due to take place in April 2019, but the timetable was delayed.

Mr Yousaf told Holyrood’s justice committee that if all parties were “satisfied” with the interim arrangements then ministers would “have to look again at whether the legislation would be commenced or not”.

He said: “It could be we get to a position where the interim arrangements satisfy us universally, the political parties around this table, the stakeholders involved.

“And we believe that after a period of a couple or a few years of those arrangements being in place that we are universally satisfied that the accountability has been demonstrated, that we have the best model in place not just to maintain the safety but enhance the safety of the travelling public.

“And if we got to that point frankly we would have to look at whether the legislation would be commenced or not.”

He said he was “disappointed” the merger had to be put on hold, saying: “I see the benefits of full integration, seamless policing, that single command structure, I see those benefits.”

Nigel Goodband, chair of the BTP Federation, said: “We welcome the view that full integration may not be necessary.

“Clearly accountability is a concern and we understand that. There are several ways to achieve this and we look forward to meeting the cabinet secretary to discuss the impact on our members.”