News In Focus
Ministers postpone Police Scotland-British Transport Police merger
The controversial merger of British Transport Police with Police Scotland will not take place on its target date in April 2019, Scottish ministers have admitted.
Concerns have arisen over the integration of IT systems and protection of the terms and conditions of BTP officers transferring to Police Scotland. Police Scotland said it had become clear the existing deadline could not be met "without compromising public safety".
A new merger date has still to be confirmed. A Scottish Government statement said that a longer timetable would allow for "enhanced engagement with officers, staff and their representatives on key issues", including pay and conditions.
It added: "A detailed re-planning exercise will now take place over the coming months to ensure robust delivery plans are in place for all of the key elements of the programme and to establish a new delivery date."
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson described the postponement as "disappointing", adding: "The Scottish and UK governments are working together to ensuring the legislation passed by Parliament last year is implemented as effectively as possible. The benefits of a single command structure and improved access to the full range of capabilities of Police Scotland will be delivered for railway policing, providing an enhanced service to both the rail industry and travelling public.
He added: "The Scottish Government remains committed to delivering on our triple lock guarantee to protect the jobs, pay and pensions of BTP officers transferring to Police Scotland. The Scottish Government has met with the BTP Federation on a number of occasions in recent weeks and will continue to work closely with them on addressing the important issues raised by their members."
Writing in the Scotsman today, Dr Kath Murray, co-author of an independent report on the merger that included a survey of BTP Scotland officers and staff, says that many of them feel themselves to be in a "difficult and insecure position", with some experiencing "a profound sense of loss and anger". The report finds that while integration may benefit Scottish policing, "any such gains are likely to be secured at a significant personal and professional cost to many BTP Scotland officers and staff", with a potential wider cost to railway policing and possibly the further breakup of the BTP.
She describes the decision to delay integration as "both sensible and welcome".