Rail policing merger driven by 'political ideology'

BTP officers are opposed to the plans
BTP officers are opposed to the plans
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The body representing railway police officers has said it is “hugely disappointed” after MSPs backed a controversial plan to integrate their work into Police Scotland.

Holyrood’s justice committee’s backed the plans, despite opposition from its Labour and Tory members.

Under the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, British Transport Police’s (BTP) operations north of the Border will be taken over by the national force.

The British Transport Police Federation said it had been clear from the outset that the move was being driven by "political ideology”.

In a statement, the federation said: “This is a hugely disappointing but not entirely unexpected decision. From the outset, it has been clear to us that the merger of BTP Scotland and Police Scotland was about a political ideology.

“If it really was about what’s best for the travelling public, robust evidence as to the benefits would have been readily available. In our opinion that evidence remains sadly lacking.

“The merger has clearly divided opinion within the justice committee; we’re saddened that despite recognising there is little public support for the proposal the Scottish Government has been given the green light.”

In a report published today, the justice committee makes a series of recommendations for the merger, including a call to maintain a visible police presence on the rail network and ensure that cross-border information sharing remains effective.

Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said: “Much of the evidence raised concerns about integration. The committee did not arrive at a unanimous position on the bill’s general principles with some members backing an alternative approach.”

Scottish Labour’s justice spokeswoman Claire Baker MSP said: “With concerns over the financial memorandum attached to this bill, this could prove to be a costly way to fix a problem that isn’t broke.

“The Scottish Government must halt this bill and work with parliament, the police and the wider railway industry to look at all options for the future of the BTP in Scotland.”