A majority of members on Holyrood’s Justice Committee have backed the Scottish Government’s plan to integrate the British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland into Police Scotland.
The Committee’s 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.
Specific requests to the Scottish Government and Police Scotland include a call to maintain a visible police presence on the rail network; 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; and a guarantee that there will be no detriment to the BTP staff and officers’ conditions of employment.
Justice Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:
“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.”
The Bill was introduced following The Scotland Act 2016, and a recommendation by the Smith Commission that the function of the BTP be a devolved matter.
Other report recommendations focus on the training that Police Scotland is to provide for officers and who will be liable for any extra costs which result from the integration of BTP into Police Scotland.
The Committee's report is available here.
The Stage 1 debate on this Bill is expected to take place week beginning 8 May.