The Scottish Government is facing calls to draw a line under its “shelved” plans to merge Police Scotland with the British Transport Police (BTP) after it emerged that more than £400,000 was spent on consultants to oversee it.
The payment was part of a £6.6 million bill run up by the national force on consultants since it was formed in 2014.
This included £399,500 on accountants Ernst and Young to oversee the controversial merger process which was shelved indefinitely after criticism from officers involved.
And more than £500,000 was spent on a plan to axe 400 officers, according to the figures released through Freedom of Information to the Sunday Mail newspaper.
The proposals to merge BTP with Police Scotland have been described by leading academic Dr Kath Murray as a “threat to policing” on both sides of the Border. Ministers say they are determined to press head with the merger in future, but are now facing calls to instead back an alternative “commissioned service” model set out by the BTP.
Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “Every political party agrees that BTP should be devolved – and the consensus is still there to do just that. The problem is that the plan adopted by the SNP – to sink BTP into Police Scotland – is turning out to be a disaster. Five years on from the creation of Police Scotland, it’s time to fix the problems that have bedevilled the single force, not add to them.
“Now that they’ve been forced to put their plans on ice, we would urge the SNP this week to go one step further and seek common cause with other parties with a fresh plan – where we respect the decision to devolve BTP, but do so in a way that protects our service.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said ministers are working with the UK government to ensure legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament last year is implemented “safely and effectively”.
She added: “We are committed to our triple lock guarantee to protect jobs, pay and pensions for BTP officers transferring to Police Scotland.
“We have met with the BTP Federation on a number of occasions in recent weeks and will continue to work closely with them on addressing issues raised by their members.”
A Police Scotland spokesman defended the use of consultants.
“This allows us to benefit from additional professional skills and experience for a specified period, complementing core functions, such as demand analysis, assessment and projection, programme management, evaluation experience, and organisational design,” he added.