A committee of MSPs has called on the justice secretary to provide an urgent update on the controversial merger of British Transport Police and Police Scotland.
The Scotsman last week revealed that the proposal – which would see the British Transport Police operations in Scotland integrated into the national force – looks set to be scrapped.
Holyrood’s justice committee has now written to Humza Yousaf calling for an explanation after the article said “other options” are being explored.
Rail unions and staff associations have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to scrap the integration, which opponents claim could put public safety at risk.
In a letter to Mr Yousaf, Margaret Mitchell, convener of the justice committee, said: “In recent weeks, there has been much speculation in the media that the plans within the Scottish Government may be about to change.
“One article quotes a Scottish Government source as saying there was a new desire to ‘look at other options’.
Given that it is currently recess and we are not able to ask you to appear before the committee, I write to request an update on the situation and more specifically confirmation of whether your plans have changed.”
She added: “The last communication the Committee received from the officials from the Joint
Programme Board was that the re-planning exercise was ‘expected to be complete
by the end of August’ and that ‘the timetable we have been working to has not slipped’.
“I would therefore be grateful for an update and clarity on your plans at the earliest opportunity.”
The devolution of railway policing was one of the recommendations of the Smith Commission, published in 2014.
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.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Devolution of BTP was recommended by the Smith Commission, reached through cross-party agreement, and integration will also ensure railway policing is fully accountable to the Scottish Parliament.
“There is a replanning exercise currently taking place. Once that is completed, we will ensure Parliament is updated on our next steps. We will never compromise the safety of the public.”