Police Scotland's transport police takeover delayed
British Transport Police will now not be merged into Police Scotland in April next year
BTP - Dave Connor
The merger of British Transport Police (BTP) into Police Scotland has been delayed, ministers have announced.
Scotland's single force was due to take over the functions of BTP on the 1 April 2019 but the timescale has been extended indefinitely, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said.
Police Scotland have warned the existing timetable could not be met without compromising public safety.
Matheson called the delay "disappointing" but would allow issues with the pay and pensions of BTP officers to be resolved.
“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 said.
“While much has been achieved so far, we want to ensure a seamless transition which delivers continuity of service for rail users and staff. As I have previously said, any issues raised by the Joint Programme Board in their role as overseeing the project would be given due consideration.
“While a later integration date is disappointing, it will provide all partners with the opportunity to enhance the process of engagement, in particular with officers, staff and their representatives on key issues.
“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.”
The Scottish Conservatives said they believed concerns over IT systems contributed to the delay. Shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “While this SNP merger may have hit the buffers, it’s time it was derailed altogether.
“The Scottish Conservatives have campaigned to stop this flawed plan for some time, and we’re glad there’s at least been a delay which might allow the SNP to do some proper planning and strategising.
“It’s an unpopular move that virtually nobody is in favour of, with ideology and dogma seemingly the motive. There have been numerous concerns about this proposal, all of which should be enough to force the SNP into a rethink.
“The nationalists have already messed up one Police Scotland IT project, as well as failed systems impacting farming payments and NHS 24. It calls into question their ability to govern competently.”
Scottish Labour's Daniel Johnson said: “This is a welcome U-turn at the 11th hour by the SNP.
“This delay reopens the debate about whether this foolish and misguided merger should go ahead at all given the distinctive nature and requirements of policing our railways.”
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has questioned whether a business case for the merger has been made.
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