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Justice Committee split over Railway Policing Bill
Scottish Government proposals to integrate the British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland into Police Scotland have divided Holyrood’s Justice Committee.
The committee’s stage 1 report supporting the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill was supported by a seven to four majority on the committee, with SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green members backing the bill but Conservative and Labour opposing.
The report acknowledges that the majority of respondents giving evidence on the bill oppose the full integration of BTP into Police Scotland.
Its recommendations focus on ensuring that should integration go ahead, there is a seamless transfer of responsibility to ensure the safety of all stakeholders, including the travelling public, BTP officers and staff in Scotland as well as rail operators and their employees.
In particular it notes that the Government has not yet succeeded in reassuring police and other employees that current conditions of employment would be retained, yet "resolving this issue is critical to achieving a seamless transfer of railway policing to Police Scotland... The committee seeks an assurance that the terms, conditions, benefits and pensions of BTP officers and staff will not be adversely affected".
Other specific requests to the Scottish Government and Police Scotland include calls to maintain a visible police presence on the rail network, and to ensure that cross-border information sharing in the event of a major incident, such as a terrorist attack, is as effective, or more effective than at present.
Ministers are requested to clarify who will be liable for any additional training costs incurred by Police Scotland, and for any extra costs which result from the integration of BTP into Police Scotland.
Committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP commented: “The committee heard a variety of opinions about the best approach for railway policing in Scotland now that has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Much of the evidence raised concerns about integration. The committee did not arrive at a unanimous position on the bill’s general principles, with some members backing an alternative approach.
“The committee report made a number of clear recommendations to ensure that the same level of service that the travelling public currently enjoys is maintained.
“These include the recommendations that strong procedures should be in place to manage cross-border issues, such as the powers of officers to carry out their duties as they travel between Scotland and England. Also that officers must be clear on operational issues such as the use of Tasers and the powers of arrest.
“All members agree that protecting the travelling public is of the utmost importance."
Click here to view the committe's report.