‘Interim’ arrangement to be set up for oversight of railway policing in Scotland

Written by Jenni Davidson on 18 December 2018 in News

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf has asked the SPA and BTPA to explore how to give the SPA more scrutiny of railway policing

ScotRail train - Image credit: aureolindn via Flickr

The Scottish Government will set up an interim arrangement for railway policing in Scotland, justice secretary Humza Yousaf has revealed.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, Yousaf confirmed that the Scottish Government’s long-term aim was still full integration of British Transport Police into Police Scotland.

However, he said that he had asked the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and British Transport Police Authority (BTPA) to explore how to give the SPA more scrutiny of railway policing in Scotland in the “medium term”.

Yousaf said he recognised that BTP staff deserved clarity and stability for the future.

“I am confident that exploring the above mentioned arrangement in further detail will provide a viable medium term option to enabling governance and accountability of the delivery of railway policing in Scotland,” he said.

The interim arrangement would also allow the SPA and BTPA to focus their resources on their respective transformation and change agendas, Yousaf added.

Scottish Labour called the announcement a “humiliating U-turn”, while the Lib Dems said the “disastrous saga” should leave ministers “suitably chastened”.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said: “It is welcome Mr Yousaf has finally recognised the plan to merge is a non-starter and is now pursuing alternatives.

“The SNP government must now take the possibility of a merger of BTP and Police Scotland completely off the table.

“This letter confirms that they need to find another option but refuses to admit full integration is a ‘dead parrot’ policy.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: “When less risky proposals were first presented, the Scottish Government dismissed them out of hand.

“They chose instead to barrel ahead with abolishing the BTP in Scotland even though no detailed business case existed.

"That decision cost millions of pounds and alienated the very staff who would be needed to make the policy a success.

"For BTP officers and staff the future remains uncertain.

“The Justice Secretary should ditch the original plan, given two years of work has shown it to be unworkable, and focus instead on the other viable options for the future of this service.”

The Justice Committee is to seek further clarification after members questioned the exact nature and the timescale of the proposal.

Committee convener Margaret Mitchell said it “wasn’t immediately clear if there was a specific option to be looked at, nor the timetable for implementing what they’re now suggesting”.

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