At First Minister’s Questions, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson read out emails from serving officers in which it was claimed the move was “ludicrous” and would have a “horrific” effect on police railway services.
One officer with nine years experience was quoted by the Tory leader as saying: “If this goes ahead the effect on policing services will be horrific. We are a specialist force for a reason – cross border crimes would potentially become unmanageable.”
Another police officer with 17-years experience said: “like many others imposed on us this is a ludicrous idea with no consultation of those actually doing the job in hand.”
An officer with 24-years service remarked: “I cannot understand why this decision can possibly be made without full consultation with the travelling public or even Police Scotland.”
The devolution of British Transport Police function was a recommendation of the Smith Commission. However, the Scottish Government’s plans to integrate the service with Police Scotland has proved controversial with critics claiming it is another example of imposing centralised control over policing.
The merger plans were included in this week’s Programme for Government.
In the Holyrood chamber, Ms Davidson pointed out that the British Transport Federation had said the change could leave the whole rail network unguarded.
“Why is the Federation wrong? And why are serving police officers who keep us safe on the railways wrong too?” Ms Davidson asked Nicola Sturgeon.
The Tory leader also pointed out that 83 per cent of passangers say they are satisfied with safety levels on Scottish trains adding that crime on railways has halved.
Ms Davidson said: “Why is the Scottish Government imposing a reform that the police don’t want on a system that doesn’t need to be tampered with?”
Ms Sturgeon replied that the move would give British Transport Police “access to that specialist and national resource that Police Scotland has access to”.
The First Minister added: “That appears to me to be common sense way of proceeding – so common sense that it eludes the Conservative Party.”