Scottish Government urged to drop transport police merger plan

The Scottish Government has been urged to suspend controversial railway policing plans amid the 'ongoing and significant threat from terrorism'.

The Scottish Government plans to merge the BTP north of the border with Police Scotland
The Scottish Government plans to merge the BTP north of the border with Police Scotland

In a letter to transport minister Humza Yousaf, the British Transport Police Federation said pressing ahead with the integration of BTP’s operations north of the Border into Police Scotland would put lives at risk.

BTP Federation chairman Nigel Goodband said: “Given the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, and the ongoing and significant threat from terrorism, I am writing to you as a matter of urgency to implore you to suspend the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

“The threat from terrorism is severe. The two most recent attacks in Manchester and London Bridge had a serious impact on the country’s infrastructure, and British Transport Police has been heavily involved in both incidents. As we all too tragically know the UK’s infrastructure and transport hubs are likely to figure highly on any terrorist’s target list.”

He continued: “In both London and Manchester, passengers have benefited from a more secure environment and the reassuring presence of armed police officers.”

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Mr Goodband said it would be “imprudent” to place passengers and staff at risk during what it called a “time of vulnerability”.

He added: “BTP Federation firmly believes that the travelling public and the railway staff in Scotland will be safer if they continue to be policed by officers of the BTP, who have unrivalled experience and training in policing the railway infrastructure in the face of such a threat.”

The federation’s intervention follows the creation of an online petition by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) which calls on ministers to ditch the legislation.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The SNP have been put on notice that they have no mandate to drive through devolution [of railway policing] for devolution’s sake.

“Rail safety is not a political principle. It is a public necessity and the SNP would do well to heed the lack of mood in Scotland for their Nationalist interest being placed over the national interest.”

A spokesman for Mr Yousaf said: “Maintaining and improving safety and security is our main priority and Police Scotland will maintain a dedicated railway policing unit.

“Integration will provide a single command structure for policing in Scotland with seamless access to wider support facilities and specialist resources including Police Scotland’s counter-terrorism capabilities, providing an enhanced service provision to the rail industry and travelling public.”