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Chamber and committees

Justice Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Agenda: Interests, Subordinate Legislation, Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1


Contents


Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Convener

Agenda item 7 is our second evidence session on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. I refer members to paper 7, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 8, which is a SPICe paper.

I welcome the panel, which comprises Nigel Goodband, national chairman of the British Transport Police Federation; Chief Superintendent John McBride of the British Transport Police branch of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales; Michael Hogg, regional organiser at the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers; Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation; and Alisdair Burnie, staff representative, Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

We will go straight to questions from members.

Douglas Ross

The British Transport Police Federation states in its submission that it

“sincerely hopes that the views of those most affected by the integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland, namely the BTP police officers ... will be given due consideration in the final decision for integration.”

Do you think that that is happening at this stage? Are you concerned about the fact that the consultation on the Smith commission’s proposal that powers over the BTP in Scotland be devolved to the Scottish Parliament focused only on one area—taking the BTP into Police Scotland—rather than on other options that were available? On page 9 of its submission, the federation says that the process has been one of “engagement but not consultation”. Will you elaborate on that?

Nigel Goodband (British Transport Police Federation)

As a federation, we believe that, right from the outset, the question that the Scottish Government was asking was how best to integrate the BTP into Police Scotland, and not whether that should happen. A number of options were put forward by the British Transport Police Authority but, in our opinion, the Scottish Government dismissed all the options bar one—that of total integration. In the process that we have been involved in, we have seen no evidence of that approach having any benefit—or, indeed, of the Smith commission recommending full integration. It recommended that the relevant powers be devolved, but it did not recommend that the BTP should be subsumed into Police Scotland. That was very concerning from our perspective.

We feel that, right from the outset, there has been no acknowledgement of our views or those of the police officers whom we represent, because a simple decision has been taken that there is only one option—that of full integration.

Douglas Ross

I want to go further into the British Transport Police Federation’s written submission. You mention the BTP command and control system, which seems to operate very well. Will you explain that further? Last week, Parliament was presented with a report from Audit Scotland on Police Scotland’s failed i6 project, which was a £46 million project that was all about information technology systems for the single police force. The report concludes that our officers in Scotland are still using

“out-of-date, inefficient and poorly integrated systems.”

What concerns does that give the federation and the other organisations that are represented on the panel about the BTP functions coming into a force that has an antiquated and potentially dangerous system that is not working for our officers?

Nigel Goodband

I can only comment on what the British Transport Police has in place at the moment, which is a seamless command and control system. It has one crime recording system and a reporting line through train drivers and victims. The existing process works and is successful. There were teething problems with the introduction of the new Niche Technology system that has been implemented in the BTP, but it is a positive. The Niche command and control system is better than previous systems and is proven to work.

The media comments on the failure of the i6 project in Police Scotland raise concerns. One is that there will possibly be two command and control systems and there could be issues about deciding where a victim sits between the two. A victim might get on a train in London but then suddenly report a crime in Scotland, which could lead to a debate about where the crime occurred and whether it was in England or Scotland. That could throw up unnecessary difficulties.

Chief Superintendent John McBride (Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales (British Transport Police Branch))

I thank the committee for the opportunity to share the views of the BTP branch of the Police Superintendents Association.

As an operational commander and senior leader, I believe that it is imperative to have one joined-up command and control system, whether it is in Police Scotland, the legacy forces or the BTP. That is an imperative in railway policing. I will give an operational example. Right now, we are preparing our plans for the forthcoming world cup qualifier between Scotland and England. In the current BTP context, it is really important for me as an operational commander to be able to see train loadings and where all the fans who are travelling by train get on, whether that is in Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen or Inverness. Post April 2019, as the operational commander in any new railway division, it will be vital to have clarity on where my resources are in that division so that we can deliver for the public and the train operators and perform at the operational optimum.

Calum Steele (Scottish Police Federation)

To an extent, we cannot help an awful lot on what might happen with command and control systems if the BTP comes into Police Scotland. We would need assurances and a response from the police service on that. However, I can comment from a perspective of logic and common sense.

I have experience of the BTP system, having been foolish enough to leave a bag on a train, which, through the skills and good offices of the diligent officers at the Haymarket depot, I was able to recover the same day. Given all the difficulties that the Police Service of Scotland has, I would find it odd if there was a suggestion that it should simply switch off the current system if or when it takes over the BTP functions in Scotland. It seems to me inherently logical for the service to continue to maintain a system that works. That is in line with the assurances that Bernie Higgins gave that a dedicated transport policing system will be maintained in the Police Service of Scotland. I cannot imagine that anyone in the IT departments of the service is devising a cunning plan to get rid of something that works and replace it with something that might not.

There might even be benefits for the wider police service if it looks at what the BTP has and whether that model could be used in the police service. It is not just a question of where there might be disbenefits; in the opposite direction, there might be benefits. For all the reasons that Nigel Goodband and Chief Superintendent McBride have laid out, I cannot envisage that the service would simply turn off those things. Ultimately, however, all that we can do is speculate, because we are not in a position to answer that question.

Michael Hogg (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers)

As far as the staff are concerned, it is crucial to have a fit-for-purpose system in place, because it means that the correct information can be relayed to the BTP. That is a fundamental for the drivers and guards on the trains. It is crucial that we get the communication correct and have a proper system in place.

Alisdair Burnie (Transport Salaried Staffs Association)

I am speaking today primarily as a staff representative from the TSSA, but I can comment on the capabilities of the Niche Technology IT system. The command and control system is also integrated into crime and case management. Chief Superintendent McBride alluded to the benefits of having a live, instant management system, but it also has great advantages for crime recording and management and the case management that follows. An integrated system means that there should be no gaps in inquiries or victim services and a common standard throughout Scotland.

In comparison, Police Scotland has at least eight different crime recording systems and at least eight case management systems, none of which speaks to the others. The advantages of our system are huge and it is to the benefit of all. Moving to Police Scotland’s current IT systems would be disadvantageous.

Douglas Ross

I was going to come to this point later but, as you have raised it, will you further explain the difference between crime recording in Scotland and in England? I understand from the evidence that that is not a problem at present because the BTP records the crimes. However, am I correct to say that, in Scotland, crimes are recorded from one point but in England they are recorded at another point? Is there, therefore, potential for loss of evidence and an inability to record crimes as efficiently as you do at present?

Alisdair Burnie

That is essentially correct. England and Wales obey the Home Office counting rules and crime recording standards, whereas in Scotland, including in the BTP, we obey the Scottish crime recording standards, and our performance has been measured as excellent.

One difference is the locus of the crime. Generally, our crimes are transient, and the start and end locations can cross borders. For commonsense reasons, the BTP considers the end location to be the location and it begins to allocate crime inquiries from there, whereas Police Scotland considers the start location to be the location of the crime. I am talking about instances when the exact location is not known. If something happens en route between England and Scotland but it is not possible to say exactly where the crime occurred, we will record the end location and begin our inquiries there. Police Scotland considers the start location to be the location of the crime. An English location could mean that different legislation, procedures and inquiries apply.

Douglas Ross

I have a final question on that point, although I would like to come back to other issues if we have time. Calum Steele mentioned the evidence that Assistant Chief Constable Higgins gave last week about having a dedicated railway policing unit within Police Scotland. Did the witnesses—particularly the federation and Chief Superintendent McBride—take reassurances from the evidence that we heard last week about the two or three weeks of additional training that would be given to all officers who come into Police Scotland, which would upskill them enough for them to be seen as dedicated railway policing officers?

I also have a question about the personal track safety certificate that officers need to have. What implications will there be if officers in Scotland are not trained to the same level as BTP officers and they do not have a personal track safety certificate?

11:45  

Nigel Goodband

I was not reassured by Mr Higgins’s evidence. I do not think that he has thought about the consequences of training every police officer in Police Scotland. The training does not come free; there is a massive cost to it. Every officer in Police Scotland who intends to police the railway—or go anywhere near the railway—will have to have the personal track safety certificate. If someone enters that dangerous environment without the understanding and expertise that ensures that they know where they can stand, where they can walk, what the direction of travel is and so on, they will put themselves in a dangerous situation. I am sure that Mr Steele from the Scottish Police Federation would be really concerned if his members were suddenly patrolling the tracks with no certification and no guarantee that, if something happened, they would get support from the organisation.

There is a misconception that an officer can simply be trained to work in the railway environment. There is initial training, but training is biennial and officers must keep taking a pass-or-fail refresher course and recertify in order to continue working in that environment. They must also carry their certificate with them when they are in that environment. There will be a continual cost for every officer who works in the railway environment. Speaking personally, I was not reassured by Mr Higgins’s comments, given the massive cost implications.

Chief Superintendent McBride

As Mr Goodband said, danger is ever present on the railway. BTP officers undertake track safety training, which is refreshed regularly. Such skills have to be used regularly, because if they are not used, the training will wane over time. Police officers are bombarded with training in a range of areas, and if officers are not using their track safety training and do not have that familiarity with the dangerous, hostile operating environment that is the railway, people could be put in danger.

We go through the personal safety training because, from a health and safety point of view, it is necessary to protect our officers, but the endgame in all of this is to ensure that police procedures are honed and improved to reduce disruption to the public. That is why we do the PTS. The benefits that flow from that are all geared to the public and to recovering operations more quickly when they have been brought to a stop by a criminal act or mental health episode.

Michael Hogg

The RMT supports the proper training of people who have to be anywhere near our railway. That is crucial.

I read the evidence from last week’s meeting, and we do not necessarily accept what was said about the proposed merger. Our position is clear: from a trade union perspective, we do not support the proposal that is on the table to merge the British Transport Police and Police Scotland. We have not ruled out the option of taking industrial action to retain BTP officers on the railway, because we are concerned about the safety of railway staff and passengers on trains in Scotland.

The retention of the British Transport Police on our trains is part of the safer Scottish trains campaign that we have embarked on, because the British Transport Police and safer Scottish trains are inextricably linked. We see the need to have BTP officers on our trains. They are properly trained, and having staff with a personal track safety certificate is crucial. Anything else is pure nonsense, as far as we are concerned.

Calum Steele

To some extent, my response will reflect what I have already said. As members of the committee will know, I am not in the business of unnecessarily defending senior officers in the Scottish police service, or the service itself. It is probably not helpful to try to second guess or interpret what Assistant Chief Constable Higgins has said. However, I did not take his evidence to mean what Mr Goodband has said. To my mind, ACC Higgins made it clear that, although every officer would receive an additional three weeks of training on aspects of policing of the railway, the specialist railway policing element would receive additional training over and above that. I am sure that, if someone was to write to him and ask him to clarify his view, he would confirm that. It will not be the case that there will just be three weeks of training for everyone and that will tick a box for policing on the railways.

I agree with the points about how dangerous the railways are. Trains are bloody fast and they can scare the bejesus out of you if you are not used to working in railway environments. I came from a smaller provincial force where the relationships and the reliance on the local officers and BTP officers were not the same as those in the central belt, where there are multiple tracks and all the rest of it, but I have worked—albeit not to any great extent—on the railways. I have recovered bodies from railways. I appreciate that working on single lines where the train has come to a halt is entirely different from the elements of track safety associated with passing trains and all the rest of it.

However, I do not consider it feasible—I find it incomprehensible—that the service, be it the BTP in its current state, a hybrid or a transport service within the Police Service of Scotland, would put a police officer out to work on a railway line without their having the appropriate track safety requirements. The old adage “If you think health and safety is expensive, try an accident” would come bearing down on them at a hell of a rate of knots—and I would be at the front of the queue knocking lumps out of them for even suggesting it should be done that way.

On ACC Higgins’s general evidence, the awareness raising and additional training for the police service would be a very good thing. I was also pretty comforted—as far as I could be without working through the detail of what we are going to be looking at in an absolute sense—that whatever specialist resources are going to be reserved for the railways will receive the adequate and necessary training to do their jobs.

Members have a number of supplementaries following Douglas Ross’s line of questioning.

Rona Mackay

My question relates to Nigel Goodband’s opening statement. What is his reaction to last week’s evidence from Chief Constable Crowther of the BTP, who said:

“I totally accept that the Smith commission recommendations, as taken forward in the Scotland Act 2016, bring about the devolution of the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland—there is no doubt about that and we totally support it.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 8.]

Nigel Goodband

I totally agree with that statement. I said at the beginning of the session that we have seen no evidence in the Smith commission’s work that states that there should be full integration of the BTP into Police Scotland.

We support and understand the Smith commission and the devolution aspects of it; we do not dispute that. However, we are in dispute with the process. A number of options were proposed to assist the Scottish Government in achieving that aim, but only one option has been considered throughout the process. That is our concern.

What was your preferred option?

Nigel Goodband

My personal preferred option would be for the BTP to remain as one national police force policing the railway environment. If the Scottish Government’s will was to take more ownership and control over that, I see no reason why BTP officers cannot remain in the British Transport Police, which could be renamed and rebadged as the Scottish transport police, for example; officers would remain part of a national police force.

It is interesting to hear that there is a view in Scotland that the Government is trying to create, and have accountability for policing in, one national police force. The BTP is a national police force, and a very successful one. I regularly hear my members ask, “Are they just robbing Peter to pay Paul to achieve the same aim?” To date, we have seen no evidence that there would be any benefit in that approach, or any failing of the BTP that would suggest that such a change should be made. In inspection after inspection, we have proved that the way in which we police the railways—our policing model—is successful, so why would you want to change that? Another relevant saying is, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

Rona Mackay

I do not think that anyone is suggesting that there have been failings on the part of the BTP, or questioning its excellence. The question is about why the BTP should not be integrated into Scotland’s national police force.

Nigel Goodband

That is because, ultimately, you would be severing the services of a police force—that is to say, the BTP. As I have said, we are a national force. Suddenly to take the BTP of Scotland away from the BTP would be making that severance and, for me, creating an unnecessary border between two police forces.

Does anyone else have a view?

Alisdair Burnie

I totally concur with what my BTP Federation colleague has said. We do not understand why you are trying to fix something that is not broken. You already have what you need. It appears that you want to break up the BTP in Scotland simply to—

It is not a question of breaking it up.

Alisdair Burnie

But, ma’am, that is the feeling. Then you will recreate it in some other form in Police Scotland. You already have that, so you can have what you want at no cost: basically, option 2. I am sorry, but I just do not understand it—and neither do the staff.

Chief Superintendent McBride

Mr Higgins said—not at the committee’s recent meeting, but at a previous round-table session—that although that could be done it would be “massively complicated”. I certainly would not disagree. The BTP superintendents branch will work to help the Parliament and the committee to understand all the risks, as we see them from our professional point of view.

Ministers have said repeatedly how highly they value the service that the men and women of the BTP in Scotland provide. In trying to replicate that service, and in going down the proposal route as it is, we are extracting something that has been immersed in our railway policing culture for over 150 years and in its current format for about 67 years. From that has been born significant innovation in our approaches to honing necessary police procedures so as still to fulfil our every need but to do so in a way that reduces any disruption that might be caused by those police procedures.

There are generally five areas that cause criminal disruption to the railway in this country: trespass and vandalism; cable theft; level crossings; graffiti; and mental health and deaths on the railway. Each of those happens in a very hostile operating environment. The BTP has looked at how we investigate those matters and has innovated, in many ways, to ensure that we can do it and cause the least possible amount of disruption to train operators and thereby to the travelling public. That is so that the travelling public can have confidence that the services will get them to work each day, on time and consistently, and to business meetings and family celebrations without any more disruption than is necessary.

That specialism, which has been built up over many years, is what I think is at risk. I will work to try to replicate that. I use the word “replicate”, because that is what I hear people saying. We want the service to be at least as good as it is just now.

12:00  

In accepting the journey that we might be on, we need to remember that this will, as Mr Higgins said, be massively complicated, and we should accept that there is likely to be a level of disruption or a diminishing of the service as we transition to the Police Scotland railway division.

However, there is a risk to all the good that we do. Criminal disruption costs more than £5 million—and if you add in the suicide and deaths element, you very quickly go up to more than £13 million. From our data across the country, we know that, when local police get involved in some of those investigations from the start, it takes at least 50 per cent longer to carry out a full investigation and recover the service. I suggest, therefore, that there is likely to be an additional cost in that respect.

However, we will work and, as we do right now, share our practices with the Scottish Government and its seven workstreams. We are working to share with Police Scotland colleagues how we police the railways in order to try to build that specialism; however, it is born out of a 150-year-old culture and attitude, and a leadership that allows the men and women in the division to problem solve more with the railway than with police colleagues, simply because of the environment that we work in and, through that innovation, to arrive at solutions that deliver for the public.

Ben Macpherson is next, to be followed by Mary Fee. These are still supplementary questions, but it is a good line of questioning.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

It is important to bear in mind that there is a collective determination to maintain a transport policing ethos, no matter how Parliament chooses to proceed. Contrary to what Douglas Ross has said but in a similar vein to Calum Steele’s comments, my interpretation of last week’s evidence from ACC Higgins is that a specialist railway policing entity will be maintained in Police Scotland together with extra training in transport policing for all new recruits who go through Police Scotland’s training programme at Tulliallan. Given that collective determination to maintain a transport policing ethos—indeed, to enhance the transport policing offering here in Scotland—I would have thought that that extra capacity in the police service would be welcomed by the panel.

Nigel Goodband

An example of this occurred recently in Holland; unfortunately it did not work there, and the Dutch railway now has private security. The train operating companies use private security to police—

But, with respect, I do not think that anything like that is being proposed here.

Nigel Goodband

You are suggesting that integration with Police Scotland would provide wider specialism and wider resource, and I would contradict that by citing Holland as an example in which the same perception was given when the same decision was made, but where the move itself did not work. Similarly, in his review of the terrorist threat to London—which, I note, has the largest police force in the UK—Lord Harris has recommended that the Metropolitan Police adopt some of the BTP’s good practices.

I return to my response to Ms Mackay’s question and ask: why fix something that is not broken? We provide an excellent service, and there is no logic, no reason and—most important—no evidence as to why the service that is being provided today should be transferred to another police service.

Ben Macpherson

As Rona Mackay pointed out, there is no perception here that the British Transport Police is broken. As I understand it, the proposed approach is about enhancing the available transport policing offering in Scotland by utilising the economies of scale and the extra specialist services that Police Scotland would bring.

On your points about Holland and London, I understand that the proposal is to maintain a specialist railway policing entity within Police Scotland. Those specialist skills will be maintained and enhanced, and extra capacity will be created on top of that by greater awareness and training through the Police Scotland programme. The idea that that is a contraction of the railway policing offering is a misrepresentation—capacity within the service will be enhanced.

Chief Superintendent McBride

The enhancement is an interesting area. Crime on the railway in Scotland is at an incredibly low level, and the railway is probably one of the safest environments in the country. The chance of someone being an assault victim or suffering any violence is one for every 275,000 passengers; that gives an idea of the levels of criminality. While enhancements are always welcome, a decision always has to be made about prioritisation over where crime happens.

Our history, our planning and our policing plan development acknowledge the key role of front-line staff who work in the railway. I mentioned innovation earlier; a number of years ago we brought about the DNA spittle stick, the use of which has been rolled out from the railway to buses and other public transport. The stick allows anyone who is spat at—which is a disgusting assault—to take a sample, which is analysed; very often we get a successful hit. There are priorities to be made; if we deal with about 5,000 crimes on the railway, that is one of our priorities. I am pleased to say that we have fewer than 100 assaults on staff every year on the railways in Scotland. That is too many, but it is at a low level, as is crime in general. The challenge for us is keeping the level that low.

Enhancements are welcome if staff are trained. At the round-table session, Mr Hanstock and Mr Higgins spoke of collaboration when our backs are to the wall. When there is serious disorder, we come together; we plan for events with Police Scotland, as the committee would expect. However, if our backs are not to the wall and we are not in a heightened serious disorder mode, when it comes to tasking specialist resources I would use BTP specialists—dog handlers, working-at-heights teams or public order officers—because they understand the operating context of the railway, and understand that some police procedures can add to disruption on the railway. Our procedures have been adapted and honed, and they are understood by those specialists. We would not always bring in people from other forces, because that level of knowledge is not there just now. As we progress our work and share our training with Police Scotland, we hope that they will see how we train and operate, and see our culture of policing on the railway.

In 2012, for every million passenger journeys, we had about 48 crimes; that figure is now down to 45 crimes. The railway environment in Scotland is incredibly safe—I hope that no-one misunderstands that fact—and we are charged to keep it thus. We do that through our specialist skills and training, and through being immersed in a much bigger body that innovates to provide solutions that keep services running and delivering for the public.

We have two more supplementaries, and we will then move on to our main lines of questioning with Stewart Stevenson.

Mary Fee

Specialist resources have been mentioned and it is worth pointing out the work that the BTP has done in reducing the incidence of metal theft. There has been an 87 per cent reduction in such theft in the past few years, which has had a massive knock-on impact on the wider rail network. I do not know whether you want to comment on that.

On another issue, BTP officers tend to be visible. I am not by any means saying that Police Scotland officers are not visible, but the perception is that BTP officers are visible, particularly during antisocial hours, when we expect to see BTP officers in stations late at night and early in the morning to prevent or tackle antisocial behaviour, or any incidents that kick off on trains. Passengers have an expectation that they will see BTP officers. What impact might there be on that visibility if the merger was to go ahead? Do you envisage there being a pull-back from that visible policing?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I do not. I know that there is a danger that BTP or future railway policing officers could be pulled away. In fact, we explained in our written submission why we think that there is a danger that that could happen in some abstraction.

On the issue of late-night disorder, I am pleased that you have seen the visibility of BTP officers. We have just spent the past 12 to 18 months looking at our demand profile and how we meet it both across the force and here in Scotland. On 9 April, we will change the rosters for officers and staff. That is never popular, but we are doing it because we feel that we are slightly out of step with the main demands.

In my view, the railway is the economic backbone of the country because it contributes so much. In that regard, we can talk about the situation during the day of commuters being confident about getting to work or we can talk about the night-time economy and people going into our larger towns and cities to enjoy the theatre, pubs, cafes or whatever. We can pull railway staff into that consideration because they sometimes have to deal, as Mary Fee indicated, with the less savoury characters who take to the trains of an evening. My officers are out there to bring confidence to the railway staff. If the staff are not on the trains because they do not have that confidence, the trains are unlikely to run—being in the railway police for 28 years has taught me that. In addition, if the public do not have that confidence, they will not travel in on late-night services or, more important, travel home on them after they have enjoyed an evening out with their friends, during which they have spent money that goes into the local economy.

I will not say more about the issues of late-night disorder and abstractions, because they are covered in the written submission from the BTP superintendents branch, but I will talk briefly about the issue of metal theft. I could talk at length about metal theft, but I will save the committee from that.

In my experience, the phenomenon of metal theft was first identified by the British Transport Police, above any other force in the country. We saw it because we saw the impact that it was having on the trains as a public service for people getting into work—we saw the disruption that was being caused. We worked closely with Network Rail and train operators to devise a plan that would help to overcome that disruption. However, we saw very quickly that metal theft went much wider than the transport network. We saw that it arose from the economics of supply and demand, because the price of metal was going up around the world. However, we saw that metal theft was starting to affect critical national infrastructure, local authority housing stock, faith buildings and a range of areas across communities, but particularly local businesses.

The BTP led a number of national campaigns against metal theft. The first one, which was done with the help of the Home Office and a £5 million grant, brought about some legislative change. As committee members will know, we have done something similar in Scotland through a £600,000 grant from Transport Scotland. We have encouraged, engineered and collaborated across critical national infrastructure with utilities companies, other police forces and other law enforcement agencies to bring about a reduction in metal theft.

I think that the figures that were quoted are the railway figures, but a 52 per cent reduction in metal theft across Scotland has been brought about by the leadership that the BTP has shown in the campaign; the way in which we have galvanised other law enforcement agencies, local authorities and utilities to better protect their assets; more enforcement that has targeted metal thieves; work with scrap metal dealers and new regulation; and work with the Parliament, officials and ministers to change the law. That is the contribution that the BTP has made on metal theft, and that has led to that reduction.

12:15  

Alisdair Burnie

I want to say something in the vein of what the area commander has just said. The mutual metal theft operations resulted in many crimes—some of which were off the railway—being dealt with in their entirety by the BTP. That means that they were detected and reported as positive crime statistics. Those statistics were all transferred to Police Scotland, so it got the benefit of that in its statistics. We are integrated in the common aim of achieving justice.

Michael Hogg

A visual presence in freight and Network Rail yards is absolutely crucial; my members have certainly advised me that seeing the BTP regularly visiting such locations is absolutely crucial. The link between the BTP and the staff—obviously, BTP officers know the staff—and knowing the railway terrain are also absolutely crucial.

From a staff and trade union perspective, we can see the BTP expertise and knowledge being lost if the merger of it and Police Scotland goes ahead. The BTP would potentially be swallowed up because of Police Scotland resources. Let us consider Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen Street stations. You can bet your bottom dollar that if there was an antisocial behaviour incident in Princes Street, BTP officers in Edinburgh Waverley station concourse would be expected to deal with it. The expertise in, and knowledge of, dealing with any form of assault or antisocial behaviour on station concourses in Edinburgh and Glasgow or—God forbid—on the trains would therefore be lost.

A lot of information about verbal and physical assaults comes to the trade union, so they are a big concern for us. We are engaged with Transport Scotland, in conjunction with ScotRail and the BTP, about the possibility of using body cameras to address antisocial behaviour and physical or verbal assaults. It is coming over loud and clear from my members throughout the country that keeping the BTP’s expertise and knowledge, and the presence of BTP officers on the railway, are absolutely crucial and fundamental.

John Finnie can ask a brief question before we move on to our main line of questioning.

John Finnie

I declare membership of the RMT parliamentary group.

It is not very often that I take a different view from Michael Hogg’s; I share his view on retention of a specialist service. I want to go back to a point that Chief Superintendent McBride made earlier—maybe I heard wrongly what you said. You were not implying that Police Scotland would deploy officers other than risk-assessed ones. That risk assessment would clearly show whether there was a requirement for additional training.

Chief Superintendent McBride

Sorry?

You talked earlier on about the need for specialist training. There was almost an implication that people could be deployed who have not been given specialist training.

Chief Superintendent McBride

Does that go back to track safety competence?

Yes.

Chief Superintendent McBride

I am not sure what point you are referring to.

John Finnie

Let me rephrase my question. Given the contractual requirements—never mind the legal and moral requirements—would no police officer, regardless of how he or she is badged, be deployed in a specialist area without having the necessary training?

Chief Superintendent McBride

It would certainly be my best professional advice to Police Scotland colleagues that they should not do that.

Okay. Thank you.

Stewart Stevenson

I want to talk about interfaces, which have come up. Each day, between 40 and 50 trains appear to cross the Scottish border. Each day, passenger trains leave the UK—London, in particular—for the Netherlands, Belgium and France, freight trains regularly come from Spain and Germany, and the first freight train from China has just arrived in the Great Britain network. The number of vehicles involved appears to be greater than the number that cross the Scottish border. It is worth saying that, as at 12.15 today, 7,393 trains had been operated in the GB network, 766 of them in Scotland. At the moment, there is an interface between policing by the BTP and general policing, in relation to those 766 trains, and there are 40 or so trains that go across the border. Does the arrangement governing management of the interfaces between the BTP and Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the SNCF and the SNCB work? It appears that I am hearing the suggestion that the proposed policing arrangement could not be made to work across the border between Scotland and England, but I am not hearing that the existing cross-border arrangements cause huge problems with France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other jurisdictions with which the UK is connected by train.

Calum Steele

I am not sure that I understand the question.

I fear that you have baffled us with statistics.

I think that it was Mr Goodband who first raised the subject of interfaces, but I am open to being corrected.

Nigel Goodband

I am sorry, Mr Stevenson, but I am not in possession of any facts regarding the policing of the railway in Holland, other than the fact that—

Stewart Stevenson

Do forgive me. I was not asking about policing in the Nederlandse Spoorwegen network. My point is that we have trains that cross borders to other jurisdictions. An issue that was raised earlier was that the existence of a different jurisdiction in Scotland would be a major problem. Could you tell us about the problems between London and Paris, London and Brussels and London and the Netherlands?

Nigel Goodband

I have no evidence to enable me to answer that question. I have not suggested for a moment that there would be a difficulty with policing cross-border services between Scotland and England—we prove now that there is not a problem with that. We draw the inference that there could, because of the involvement of two different forces with different command structures, different crime recording systems and different communication systems, be a problem. I am not suggesting that there is a problem between Scotland and England at the moment. In fact, quite the reverse is true; the current model for policing cross-border services is successful. I hope that it will continue to work in that way.

Who records crimes on the 17 return journeys a day for passengers between London and Paris?

Nigel Goodband

I am not sure of the answer to that question.

So, that recording has not been of such character as to have come to your attention.

Nigel Goodband

No.

Cross-border policing of rail services—at least in that instance—has not been an issue.

Nigel Goodband

It has not, that I am aware of.

The Convener

If the witnesses would like after today’s meeting to provide further evidence on information that they are not currently aware of, the committee would be happy to receive it. However, we need to move on. We have got Stewart Stevenson’s point—unless anyone has anything substantial to add.

Chief Superintendent McBride

It might help the committee to know that the example that was mentioned involves a much more controlled environment—we are talking about ports, with all a port’s controls. I am not sure what the levels of crime are, but the system would work in the way that we have described: crimes would be recorded at the end-station destination. St Pancras is an international port, so crimes coming in would be recorded there for the reasons that have already been given by others: police have the victim and can get statements and start the inquiry. That is a much more controlled environment. I do not know the crime statistics for the Eurostar operations.

As Mr Goodband said, arrangements currently work effectively for trains that pass over the border between Scotland and England. I suppose that the proposal will bring in almost dual controls—we are asking two organisations to think completely differently about how crimes are recorded, and how incidents are dealt with, and about their competence as trains cross the border.

We will move on.

Alexander Stewart

We were given to believe that one of the benefits of creating Police Scotland was that there would be specialist policing across the whole country and a seamless transition for employees in terms of their rights and conditions. That is not quite the picture that has been painted today. We have been advised that the transfer of rights and conditions for the BTP should be as seamless as it was for Police Scotland, although whether there was a seamless transition there is open to interpretation; I do not believe that the members and employees of Police Scotland saw it as seamless. I have major concerns about how the conditions for individuals and employees of the British Transport Police could be managed, maintained, retained and sustained as we go forward. Can I hear some views on that?

Nigel Goodband

That point is a major concern for the British Transport Police Federation, because the officers of the British Transport Police have dual status. As you have heard already, they are employees and police officers, but they are not Crown servants. In the transfer from the previous eight forces to Police Scotland the transfer was from Crown servants to Crown servants. To date, we do not know—we have not been shown—what the legal mechanism is for the transfer of employees to Police Scotland, where they will be Crown servants. That is a major concern.

Mr Matheson has sent me a letter to circulate among the officers of BTP Scotland and we hear the term, “triple-lock guarantee”. However, the terminology that is used in the letter and the policy memorandum say that that is the aim where “possible”. In my mind, that does not give a “triple-lock guarantee”. That level of uncertainty continues among British Transport Police officers: what exactly will their terms and conditions and their pensions look like when—or if—they transfer to Police Scotland?

Michael Hogg

The RMT does not represent the BTP—its employees are not our members—but from a railway staff perspective, terms and conditions are absolutely crucial. If there were to be attacks on terms and conditions, pensions or railway passes, the RMT would not hesitate to take industrial action and issue ballot papers. The RMT stands shoulder to shoulder with the British Transport Police Federation on protecting its members’ terms and conditions. It is not unreasonable to require a guarantee that their terms and conditions would be protected.

Alisdair Burnie

Police staff and TSSA members are now in fear of the proposed integration. They cannot see what is coming and they do not find any comfort or reassurance anywhere. It feels like we are being pushed towards a life and career cliff edge and will either jump or be pushed with no idea of what the landing will be like. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 were mentioned initially and then, understandably, discounted. A version of TUPE was similarly mentioned and discounted, and the latest idea is to use Cabinet Office statement of practice, or similar, staff transfer regulations, under which staff remain with the same employer and with the same pension fund, but that is not the case here.

I have to report that there is fear among staff about what might happen. One major fear is that they would not be able to remain with the TSSA once the transfer is completed, and would instead be with a union organisation that does not understand the lead up to the transfer, or the pay and conditions. Most staff who have options will take them, so please do not think that the number of staff that you expect to transfer will necessarily transfer, because that will not be the case.

12:30  

Alexander Stewart

The number of transferring staff is one of the main cruxes that we are looking at. The information that we have been given assumes transfer of a certain number of individuals. The package of quality and skills that comes with that transfer is important. Do you believe that, in reality, the number will be diminished because of the fear and anxiety that is being created by the situation?

Alisdair Burnie

Yes—that is accurate.

Calum Steele

In response to Mr Stewart’s question, it is important to make a couple of small points. I would never presume to speak for members of support staff about how the transfer from their former forces into Police Scotland went. However, from a police perspective, because terms and conditions were universal—by and large, bar one or two local nuances—the change resulted in very little difficulty.

Secondly, I understand why Mr Goodband made the reference to Crown servants, but the police are not Crown servants in Scotland. That common shorthand translates wrongly north of the border. It might be counting angels dancing on the head of a pin, but that is not the status of police officers in Scotland.

There are issues with regard to transferring employed police constables into roles that hold the office of constable, but from the preliminary examination that I have undertaken on the arrangements that exist at the Cabinet Office and how they relate to the TUPE principles, I do not see the issues as being insurmountable. Police Scotland currently employs officers under a variety of different terms and conditions based on when they joined and their particular arrangements. I suspect that there are very few officers left who are entitled to our rent allowance, but there are a large number who are entitled to transitional housing allowances. A very small number of officers—Mr Finnie was directly responsible for this—secured bespoke arrangements based on promises that they were given before they were due to start in 1994, versus what they were given when they started in October 1994. Officers are also on different pension schemes—those are known as the 1987, 2006 and 2015 pension schemes.

If—or when—the decision is taken to take the officers of the BTP into the Police Service of Scotland, one of my responsibilities in looking after the officers who would be my members would be to engage as proactively as possible with the British Transport Police Federation, with which we have nothing but the best working relationship, to ensure that we understand all the nuances across the range of entitlements of BTP officers, and that they are transferred into the Police Service of Scotland. I know that that will not necessarily be a clean and simple thing to do, because the nature of bringing people into an organisation is that it always results in differences. I suspect that we will, as happens with all organisations as they evolve, get closer to something that looks and feels similar to everybody, rather than having numbers of people on different elements of entitlement, as is currently the case in the police.

Mary Fee

My question is similar to Alexander Stewart’s: I wanted to ask whether you had been given any long-term guarantee about terms and conditions. I asked a question last week about staff terms and conditions on transfer, because it is my understanding that TUPE does not apply. Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said to me that he had

“been assured by ... the Scottish Government ... that they are working furiously to ensure that the current conditions of service of all British Transport Police staff will be honoured”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 20-21.]

Mr Foley added that it was his belief that that was “the Government’s intention”. I take it that today’s witnesses have been given no guarantees that that will be the case.

Nigel Goodband

We definitely have not been given guarantees. I very much welcome Mr Steele’s stance that the SPF would support officers if they transferred to Police Scotland, but there is a slight stumbling block. British Transport Police officers are under a contract of employment under employment legislation. They are not employed under police regulations. It is questionable whether our members could be represented by a police federation that is covered in statute under police regulations. We, the British Transport Police Federation, exist under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, not under police regulations.

I am not suggesting for one moment that we cannot achieve that, but there are many obstacles in the way that nobody understands. It has never been done before, and there is no legal mechanism to allow it. Yes, we can use the Cabinet Office statement of practice on staff transfers in the public sector but that is no guarantee for an officer who may transfer a year or two years down the line, because it contains no legally binding guarantee that those officers will keep their terms and conditions, their pensions and, in some cases, their free travel. Unfortunately, we do not have that guarantee.

Mary Fee

My concern is that British Transport Police officers’ enhanced set of terms and conditions will naturally be eroded over time. I accept Calum Steele’s point that there are a number of different legacy arrangements across Police Scotland, and that different officers have different enhancements. As officers leave, however, those enhancements are not maintained and there will be a natural diminishment. I am concerned that the same would apply to the British Transport Police.

Nigel Goodband

Yes.

Calum Steele

I will respond specifically to Mary Fee’s point about whether the position is one of enhancement or detriment. I am not sure that that question has been answered. It is certainly a bold statement to say that that is a position of fact. There are certain elements where the conditions of BTP officers are better than those of Police Scotland officers, not least regarding entitlements to travel on the rail network but, certainly from my understanding, those vary, depending on when people joined the BTP.

As regards general terms and conditions, it would be a bold step to state that there is a risk of deterioration for anyone coming into the police service of Scotland. I would like to think that, at this point, in no small way because of the work of the Scottish Police Federation among others, we have significantly better terms and conditions than police officers in many other parts of the UK. There is a danger of getting into apples and oranges here, but I know that many elements of the conditions that apply to the police service in Scotland are superior to those in England and Wales. To a large extent—although not exclusively—the BTP conditions of service are more closely aligned, in general terms, to those in England and Wales than to those in Scotland.

Chief Superintendent McBride

I turn to the substantive points in Mr Stewart’s and Ms Fee’s questions about terms and conditions. It is undoubtedly true that the proposals have caused significant angst and uncertainty among staff. Those are staff who we expect to go out every day and police the railways, in the really successful way that has been acknowledged by the committee, ministers and others. That angst is driven by complete uncertainty over the legal mechanism and what guarantees that mechanism may bring.

I will use an example. Mr Goodband has asked officials and others this question about the legal mechanism a number of times. Some of the staff in the BTP in Scotland have said, “Why would it be the 284 of us? Why is the wider organisation not”, if I can use the phrase, “at risk of going across? We do not know the legal mechanism and whether it would necessarily be us.”

As I said before, that comes from a culture of specialism and a conscious decision to join a specialist railway police force. People are saying, “Why would I want to transfer into something that is much more generalist?”

The pension arrangements are quite different, with a funded rather than an unfunded scheme, different accrual and contribution rates, different benefits and opportunities to retire and different indexation start points. It is “massively complicated”, to quote Mr Higgins again from the Justice Committee meeting on 1 November 2016.

The BTP is working with the Scottish Government and Police Scotland in the workstream on terms and conditions to try to unpick the issues and see how provision might transition across. It is undoubtedly extremely complicated and has caused great uncertainty and angst among the people who serve you in the BTP in Scotland.

The Convener

For information, members will remember that last week Mr Foley undertook to give an explanation of why TUPE did not apply. He has since responded to the clerks and referred the explanation to be made by the Scottish Government.

This question might best be directed at Mr Goodband, and perhaps also Mr McBride. Where are the majority of resources and assets for BTP situated, first on a UK basis and then on a Scotland basis?

Nigel Goodband

Each of the four divisions has centralised specialisms, that is crime scene investigators and managers, detectives, and reactive and proactive specialisms within the criminal investigation department. There are also centralised force specialisms in London at force headquarters. In the case of major incidents such as a murder investigation, support for the existing resources within divisions will be deployed.

Chief Superintendent McBride

As Mr Goodband has explained, like most other police forces, we are concentrated around a number of hubs. In Scotland, the majority of our resources are in the central belt, as they are for Police Scotland colleagues.

Fulton MacGregor

The reason why I asked was to come back to an earlier point from Mr McBride, who spoke about the significant cost increase if Police Scotland is involved at the start of an investigation or incident. In what circumstances would Police Scotland need to be involved at the start of an incident and how often does that occur?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I missed the start of that question. I said that there would be an additional cost increase—

Yes. An increase of 50 per cent was mentioned.

Chief Superintendent McBride

What I said was that we know that criminal disruption on the railway costs X amount. If local police forces attend first, we know that it will normally take at least 50 per cent more time and therefore additional cost to get the railway recovered and people moving again.

The 50 per cent was more in terms of time. How often does that happen? How often across Scotland does an incident occur on the railway that Police Scotland is first to respond to?

Chief Superintendent McBride

The figures for this year show that Police Scotland attended first at 1.8 per cent of incidents on the railway. That is roughly 2 incidents in a week out of a total of about 250 incidents.

What sort of incidents are they most likely to be?

Chief Superintendent McBride

Police Scotland would be called to intervene right across the spectrum of criminality. It could be trespass, vandalism, antisocial behaviour, disruption at stations and incidents on trains—a wide spectrum of incidents.

When Police Scotland or BTP arrive at the scene, do you accept that there are joined-up working arrangements in place between the services?

12:45  

Chief Superintendent McBride

Yes, absolutely. We collaborate daily. As I think I said earlier, we plan together for most big events. Police Scotland plans for the policing of the event. We normally always plan for the movements on the mass transit system, as tens of thousands of people can be going to see the concert or sporting event or whatever it happens to be.

Do you think that the confidence that John Foley, for example, and Bernie Higgins expressed when they were on our panel last week, which we have also heard about from other members [Interruption.]—

Chief Superintendent McBride

Sorry—I am struggling to hear you above the noise of the wind.

I know—I am noticing it too.

Can you speak up, please, Fulton?

Fulton MacGregor

Last week, we heard from John Foley and Bernie Higgins that they were confident that the merger would be successful. Is that confidence a result of how current operations work, with Police Scotland already being involved? Does that mean that people feel that the merger can work successfully?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I do not know that I picked up on the confidence, if I am honest. It may very well have been there and I may have missed it.

I have some quotations here—I think that other people mentioned them earlier, but—

I am trying to get everyone in, Fulton.

Fulton MacGregor

John Foley said:

“We are extremely confident that we will deliver the merger successfully”

and Bernie Higgins said:

“I am confident that the transition would occur and that it would be done in collaboration and partnership”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 29-30.]

Chief Superintendent McBride

I am probably on record both on behalf of the Police Superintendents Association and as the divisional commander as saying that, if we are talking about policing, there is no difference between arresting someone in Central station, Waverley station or Aberdeen station and arresting them on the high street. Police officers are police officers and they will be able to do that.

Where the specialism comes in—the cultural difference in a specialist police force—is in the discretionary effort and the discretionary benefit that we bring to the travelling public, the train operators and the wider Scottish economy. We allow service recovery by honing our police procedures and ensuring that they do not disrupt any more than is necessary. We add value by getting the service back up and running so that people can get to their work or their business meeting.

I am not convinced yet—although we are working with Police Scotland to share our procedures—that that discretionary effort and benefit will be available on day 1, on 1 April 2019, or any time soon after that. It could be quite disruptive.

Michael Hogg

I have an observation. Police Scotland would not have access to our railways if there was a derailment or a collision or any trespass on a railway. If Police Scotland officers do not have a PTS certificate, they cannot go on or near the running line.

Mairi Evans

I will hark back to an earlier point and follow on from what Fulton MacGregor said. Last week, John Finnie asked a question and I asked a follow-up question about how the British Transport Police were deployed across Scotland. We received those figures as part of supplementary evidence this week. There is quite a heavy presence in the central belt, but I am concerned that there is less of a presence as you move up towards my constituency of Angus North and Mearns, up around the north-east and across to the Highlands as well.

In that sense, if we are looking at a specific transport division within Police Scotland where those officers are trained, it would give me more comfort that if there was an incident in some of the areas that are not so well staffed at the moment, at least there would be a presence there that was capable of dealing with that incident. What are your thoughts on that?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I will go back to what I said earlier. We have just completed the demand review work and, from 9 April, we are changing how we look and feel to adapt to the demand. The demand in the north-east for the BTP is primarily football based. Quite a lot of work is done and effort is put in with the offshore industry because of some issues that can arise when people come back onshore. Some particular trains come down from the north-east all the way to Newcastle and they have to be policed seamlessly across the border because of the risk of disorder on those trains.

This is a two-way process. Police Scotland attends some of our calls—I think that I mentioned 1.8 per cent, or an average of about two every week. Over a year, we receive more than 1,000 missing persons inquiries and requests from Police Scotland; over the past two weeks, for example, we have received four requests for specialist search capability track side to look for evidence or missing people, and we supply that capability back into the system. It is, as I have said, a two-way process, and our analysis of the criminality and disruption on that particular line and in the north-east region is causing us to change our staff profile—not just the number of staff but the times that they work—in order to meet demand better.

Mairi Evans

I want to ask Mr Burnie in particular about the results of the staff survey that was carried out. How many staff members took part? I see that 37.5 per cent indicated their intention to leave, some through retirement but many in the expectation that they will be made redundant post transfer. Have you been given any indication that that is what will happen to those staff?

Alisdair Burnie

We believe that that will certainly be the case. We have already seen removal of, and redundancy among, Police Scotland staff, and we know about their low morale. Obviously we want no part of that, because we are safe and comfortable where we are. If we are transferred across, our salary will be on average £3,000 less; we do not know where the posts will be; and the fact that police staff roles in Police Scotland vary regionally means that the same role can be paid differently and have different conditions depending on where it is in Scotland. All of that is adding to our anxiety and to our conclusion that if we have the option to go elsewhere before then, we should do so.

Mairi Evans

Just for clarification, is it just your belief that these redundancies will take place, or have you been told as much by someone from Police Scotland or the Government? Similarly, is what you have said will happen to salaries your belief or something that you have been told is going to happen?

Alisdair Burnie

It is the case. We have checked it out.

With whom?

Alisdair Burnie

The TSSA with the respective Police Scotland—

The Convener

It would be helpful if you could provide more information on that to the committee, as it would allow us to move on. I have supplementaries from Liam McArthur and Douglas Ross, and if we have time, I will bring in John Finnie and Ben Macpherson.

Liam McArthur

I want to give Calum Steele an opportunity to come back on some questions. First, on the issue of confidence that Fulton MacGregor highlighted, I note that we have had similar expressions of confidence from the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland in the run-up to i6. Clearly what we need to do is to satisfy ourselves that such confidence is well founded.

On the issue of morale, which a number of witnesses have mentioned, I realise that any change process is difficult, and I note that the policing 2026 strategy raises the prospect of a reduction in the number of police officers. Can Calum Steele tell us what the impact on the morale of police officers in Police Scotland is likely to be if it is felt in the coming negotiations that, in order to facilitate this transfer, other officers will be coming in on more preferential terms and conditions?

My other question is for Mr Burnie, in particular. In the staff survey that has been referred to, upwards of 40 per cent have indicated that they might leave the service through one means or another. How disruptive would that be for maintaining any sort of service during a period of transition? As I have said, we all accept that any transition or change will be difficult, but the order of magnitude quoted in the staff survey would, I think, give rise to concerns for any organisation.

Calum Steele

I will get to Mr McArthur’s questions presently.

To some extent, I am going to slightly contradict what I said earlier about speaking about the terms and conditions of support staff—I suspect that there will be Unison colleagues watching the committee being broadcast who will be screaming at their television sets—but the harmonisation of support staff terms and conditions in the Police Service of Scotland has not yet taken place in a way that the service would expect. Rather than identifying that as a problem and something to be feared, I think that that shows that the TUPE principles under which staff came from the former forces into the Police Service of Scotland have been adhered to. Only those same principles could apply to police staff or support staff members coming from the British Transport Police Authority into the Police Service of Scotland, so the transfer will not result in a diminution in terms and conditions; under TUPE, it will result in the maintenance of what staff currently have, at least until such time as we come to a position of harmonisation in the future—no one can ever have what they have had in the past forever.

On the specific issue of the impact of the policing 2026 strategy on numbers and morale, there is a distinct difference between police officers and support staff when it comes to reductions in numbers and redundancy. Police officers—certainly those who hold the office of constable—cannot be made redundant. As such, any impact on the morale of those who are losing their job does not really exist; it can only be on those who are left and because people who have retired or have left through natural attrition have not been replaced. Self-evidently, there is a morale issue if the loss in numbers results in a reduction in capacity—on those who are left doing the work of the 400 or so, which is the figure that is floating around just now.

Liam McArthur

On that, if a deal is to be struck with the BTP that will allay the concerns that have been expressed today, that were expressed during the round-table meeting and that are in the written evidence that the committee has received, someone will have to claim success in protecting terms and conditions on BTP’s migration into Police Scotland. Against that backdrop and in the context of the debate around policing 2026, surely to goodness that will give rise to some degree of, if not resentment, at least questioning of why that debate is happening over here, with officers who are coming into the force being treated in one way, when there is a separate debate with Police Scotland officers that is happening in a very different and more difficult context.

Calum Steele

I do not agree. There is a fundamental difference between those who hold an office and those who are employed.

The one thing that, until now, probably has not been explored is what happens to those who are currently employed when they hold an office. Do they retain their entitlement to redundancy and some of the associated questions? I cannot see how that is possible. Whilst there are advantages to being an employee, there are also advantages to not being an employee and to holding an office. On that single particular issue, I do not think that the two are compatible.

There are efforts in the police service in England and Wales, where people are able to apply for a form of voluntary redundancy—although they do not call it that; I forget the terminology, and there is no help coming from my colleagues to my left—

Nigel Goodband

Is it A90?

Calum Steele

No—oh, it does not matter. Either way, redundancy in policing does not work.

We have deliberately not stepped into the natural territory of the British Transport Police Federation on this, but when or if we have these discussions, the maintenance of current terms and conditions should be quite easily secured, because we have secured some of the protections that would be expected—in respect of residency and the positions that apply under the terms of the transfer—for officers from the former forces, and it is only right and proper that the same thing should apply for Scotland.

If his points are very brief, I can take Douglas Ross.

Douglas Ross

I will be brief, convener. I have two final points on the evidence that we have received.

First, I thought that the staff survey was interesting because while 37.5 per cent said that they were intent on leaving, the other 62.5 per cent did not give a ringing endorsement of remaining with the BTP when it comes into Police Scotland; they said—cautiously—that they intended to stay. We have considered the impact on morale, but I would like to ask the panel about the loss of not just morale but resources and experience that we in Scotland would suffer if the potential figures bear any resemblance to what actually happens in respect of a lack of officers coming forward.

I also have a specific question for Mr Steele, who mentioned transition. It is fair to say that he is more supportive of the plans than others on today’s panel, and I saw his tweet last week about how impressed he was by the evidence given by ACC Higgins, who mentioned the “luxury” of having two years to implement the changes.

Even with that “luxury” of two years, given the problems with creating a single force that the Scottish Police Federation and its members have expressed, the uncertainty in Police Scotland and the problems that it is still going through, with SPF members highlighting problems daily, is this the right time to be integrating BTP into Police Scotland?

13:00  

Calum Steele

I will be brief. On the specific question, that is a matter for Parliament and is something over which the Scottish Police Federation has little control.

It is important to deal with the question of support. The Scottish Police Federation remains neutral on that question—even now. In my evidence today I have highlighted some of the areas that could work and how the SPF and the service would approach them, but we have not taken—and would not take—a position on a body of employees who are not our members. That would be wholly inappropriate. We will get to that stage when Parliament makes a decision.

I was not casting aspersions on your evidence in general, Mr Steele.

If there is anything that witnesses want to add or reflect on, the clerks will be happy to receive any clarifications or additional information.

Michael Hogg

Staff morale—for on-board, gateline and station staff—is at rock bottom and we are greatly concerned. We engage with our members up and down the country and they are greatly concerned about the implications of the transfer for the BTP. If there is any thought of taking away the British Transport Police officers from our railways, that would be a great cause for concern, because their knowledge and expertise are crucial to ensure that we have a safe railway.

Chief Superintendent McBride

The demographics show that within the division—if that is who will move across—there are in the region of 30 to 40 people who are approaching the end of their service, if I can put it like that, and who may choose to go. We have talked about the uncertainty, but if those people choose to go, we would be looking to fill their posts from within Police Scotland, which takes me back to the point that I made in my written submission about that specialism possibly taking a hit right away.

That concludes our questions. I thank the witnesses for their very detailed and helpful evidence.

Douglas Ross

We heard some difference in opinion on crucial information that we received last week from ACC Higgins—some members and witnesses had concerns about training and others did not. Given that that is a vital aspect of BTP integration, can we ask for a full response from ACC Higgins on the intention as regards Police Scotland training for current and future officers joining a specialist railway division and for all 17,000 officers? We need a full and detailed analysis of that so that the witnesses who have raised concerns today and those others who believe the training to be sufficient have that information and so that members have it before we reach our conclusion.

The Convener

I agree. We will ask Mr Higgins for that information.

That concludes today’s meeting. Our next meeting will be on 21 March and the main item of business will be further evidence on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

Meeting closed at 13:04.