More than 80 per cent of railway police officers and staff do not support a controversial merger, an independent report has found.
Research published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research found 83 per cent of British Transport Police (BTP) employees are either "quite or very unsupportive" of plans to integrate the force into Police Scotland.
The findings come the day after the Scottish Government announced that the integration will not take place in April 2019 as planned amid concerns over the terms and conditions of officers transferring to Police Scotland.
The survey, conducted by researchers Dr Kath Murray (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Colin Atkinson (University of the West of Scotland) also found that around two-thirds (64 per cent) said they had given serious consideration to leaving policing because of the merger.
Many respondents highlighted ongoing uncertainty about the merger, while some reported feelings of stress and low morale.
One respondent told researchers: “The merger provides an additional strain on an already stretched service and more transformation at an already turbulent time within [Police Scotland’s] short history.”
Dr Murray said: “The decision to delay the merger is both sensible and welcome. As well as addressing the sizeable practical challenges, the merger will need buy-in from skilled railway officers and staff, which is yet to be secured.
“Our findings point towards a clear need for improved communication with BTP officers and staff about how integration will work in practice, and a better understanding of how the merger is affecting the professional and personal lives of BTP officers and staff.”
The national force is due to assume responsibility for railway policing under legislation passed last year by the Scottish Parliament, despite concerns from the railway industry, staff associations and trade unions
Participants in the SCCJR study answered a series of multiple-choice questions about their background, service history and experience, views on the BTP, and the merger itself.
The survey was carried out between 6 and 16 February, with 182 officers, staff and special constables taking part, an overall response rate of 66 per cent.
Dr Colin Atkinson said: “The survey provides a robust and independent snapshot of the current attitudes of BTP officers and staff towards the issue of integration.
"We will be exploring these issues further in the next stage of our research, with a full report published this summer. Our findings to date, however, should prompt further discussion and debate on ways to address the concerns and experiences of those officers and staff at the frontline of this process.”
Earlier this year, The Scotsman revealed that around two-thirds of British Transport Police officers are unsure whether they will transfer to Police Scotland following a controversial merger.