'˜Cynical' SNP accused of ignoring rail police merger evidence

The Scottish Government has been accused of 'jingoism' and of ignoring the evidence over plans to hand railway policing to Police Scotland.

The controversial merger plans are being driven by nationalistic jingoism say police critics. Picture: John Devlin

The British Transport Police Federation said the SNP’s plans to integrate its officers into Scotland’s national force were “cynical” and not in the interests of passengers.

Under the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, BTP’s operations north of the Border will be taken over by Police Scotland. It is expected the majority of BTP’s 260 officers in Scotland will transfer, although it has been suggested that some may leave.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In a speech to the organisation’s annual conference today, federation chairman Nigel Goodband is expected to say the controversial plans are being driven by “nationalistic jingoism”.

He is expected to say: “In the absence of any other evidence, I am forced to conclude that the SNP’s grab to control the Transport Police in Scotland is no more than a childish wish to play with their own train set.

“Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP aren’t interested in evidence. They will cynically take every opportunity to pursue their aggressive ideology even when it actually isn’t in the interests of Scottish rail passengers or their safety.”

Mr Goodband has written to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary calling for the issue of railway policing in Scotland to be treated as a matter of national security, meaning it would be considered by Westminster and not Holyrood.

Yesterday, train bosses expressed disquiet to Holyrood’s justice committee that up to 40 per cent of BTP officers in Scotland could leave the force during the shake-up.

Asked if he was concerned by the figure highlighted in a recent staff survey, Darren Horley, commercial and operations strategy manager at Virgin Trains, replied: “Absolutely. Without a shadow of a doubt that concerns us.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry, said: “To find that 40 per cent of the officers in Scotland are concerned about this, given the leadership I’ve witnessed [in BTP], would be a real concern.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We greatly the value the work of BTP officers and staff in keeping people safe. As Police Scotland has made clear, specialist railway policing expertise and capacity will be maintained and protected within the broader structure of Police Scotland, with improved access to wider support facilities and specialist equipment, providing an enhanced service provision.”