Humza Yousaf will '˜re-examine options' for devolution of railway policing

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf has said he will 're-examine all options' for the devolution of railway policing.

Humza Yousaf MSP. Picture: John Devlin
Humza Yousaf MSP. Picture: John Devlin

The Scotsman revealed earlier this month that controversial plans to merge British Transport Police (BTP) and Police Scotland are set to be scrapped.

A report published yesterday by Police Scotland said it was not possible to give a “go-live” date for the merger due to ongoing concerns.

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Mr Yousaf, who took over as justice secretary from Michael Matheson earlier this year, said he was now willing to explore other options.

Scottish Labour said the announcement amounted to a “humiliating climbdown”.

Mr Yousaf said: “Throughout this process we have been committed to listening to officers and staff. As part of that ongoing approach, I have decided that we will re-examine all options for the devolution of railway policing, with clear governance structures that ensure accountability to the Scottish Parliament.

“The absolute priority for all involved is the safety and security of officers, staff and those who use Scotland’s railways.”

He said the Scottish Government “remained committed” to the full integration of railway policing into Police Scotland, but said there was a need to identify “interim arrangements”.

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

Rail unions and staff associations have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to scrap the integration, which would see the BTP’s operations north of the Border taken over by Police Scotland.

Earlier this year, a planned start date of April 2019 was postponed amid concerns over unresolved issues around the integration of IT systems and how the terms and conditions of officers transferring from BTP to Police Scotland will be protected.

In a report due to go before the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) later this week, Police Scotland warn: “While the re-plan exercise has been well structured, has benefitted significantly from professional services input and has been conducted with full engagement from Police Scotland, we are not currently satisfied that the substantive matters raised by SPA members or associated issues of concern to Police Scotland have been adequately resolved or that there is sufficient clarity around the future timeline or process to address these issues.

“In light of that, Police Scotland are not currently in a position to recommend any revised ‘go-live’ date…”

Labour’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “This is a humiliating climbdown from the SNP, but it is the right approach to the future of our railways.”