Scots railway police fear losing employment rights in merger

Transport police officers fear they risk losing their employment rights in the merger with Police Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
Transport police officers fear they risk losing their employment rights in the merger with Police Scotland. Picture: John Devlin

Police officers on Scotland’s railways fear losing their existing terms and conditions if they seek promotion following a controversial merger.

The Scottish Government has promised to protect the rights of British Transport Police (BTP) officers once the force’s operations are integrated into Police Scotland from 2019.

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But it is understood BTP officers risk losing their employment status if they move away from the “rail division” and into another part of Police Scotland.

Earlier this year, the BTP Federation warned officers in Scotland were leaving due to the uncertainty created by the merger. BTP officers are currently classed as employees, while those working for Police Scotland are Crown servants.

As employees, BTP officers have rights in relation to redundancy and resettlement as well as free rail travel for themselves and their families.

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur said the proposals ran the risk of causing more railway officers to leave the service. He said: “This will only serve to confirm the suspicions that BTP officers and others had from the get-go that the promises that were being made were not necessarily all they were cracked up to be.”

The Scottish Government has previously pledged a “triple lock” to guarantee the jobs, pay and pensions of BTP officers transferring to Police Scotland.

But earlier this year Police Scotland said it could not yet be determined whether the changes would “advantage or disadvantage” BTP officers. The issue is due to be discussed at a meeting of the joint programme board today.

Asked about the possibility of BTP officers losing their terms and conditions, a spokesman for the BTP Federation said: “We are aware of that rumour – and it is something we would challenge – however no decisions have been made yet on terms and conditions.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government has made clear that pay, pensions and terms and conditions for officers transferring to Police Scotland will be protected. Arrangements for officers changing role once they have joined Police Scotland are being actively considered by the Joint Programme Board overseeing the transfer. The Railway Policing (Scotland) Act already provides ‘grandfather rights’, which means officers cannot be moved from railway policing duties without their consent.”