Merging police forces could hit train trip times
Plan could also put travellers’ lives at risk, says union
MERGING the British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland with the country’s police force could spark big delays for travellers and hit rail firms in the pocket, a union leader has warned.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary ofthe TransportSalariedStaffs’Association, said the BTP is a “highlyregarded, super-efficient” crossborder service and Police Scotland “simply are not fit to take it over”.
The Scottish Government’s planned merger between the two forces north of the Border should be “binned before it causes real and lasting damage to rail security and jeopardises passengers’ lives,” he insisted.
Ministers at Holyrood have put forward legislation that, if passed, would give power over railway policing to the force and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) watchdog. The Railway Police (Scotland) Bill also requires the SPA and chief constable to have regular contact with train operators on rail policing matters.
BTP Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hancock has already told MSPs the plans could create an unnecessary “border” for officers and he would prefer a new Transport Police Scotland to be created instead of the force being absorbed into Police Scotland.
With transport company chiefs due to take part in a joint rail safety committee meeting later this month, Mr Cortes wants the merger plans to be top of the agenda.
He also called on industry leaders such as Sir Richard Branson of Virgin, Stagecoach founder Sir Brian Souter, Tim O’Toole of First Group’s Transpennine Express, and Arriva UK managing director Chris Burchell to “give a lead” on the issue and speak out against the plans.
Mr Cortes said: “No-one involved in the rail industry wants this merger. BTP does not want it, the BTP Federation does not want it, rail unions do not want it and rail company bosses need to come clean with the public because they are said not to be in favour of it either.
“UK cross-border rail safety is way too important to be reduced to a devolution issue. Scottish Labour does not want it and the Scottish Tories do not want it.
“The drivers behind it are the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Justice Minister Michael Matheson and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf.”
The union leader added: “The BTP is a highly-regarded, superefficient, well-embedded crossborder service that needs absolutely no SNP fixing. It certainly does not need merging into the troubled Police Scotland, who simply are not fit to take it over.
“It is a proposal the transport leaders Sir Richard, Sir Brian, Mr O’Toole and Mr Burchell urgently need to give a lead on.”
A Government spokesman said: “As Police Scotland have made clear, specialist railway policing expertise and capacity will be maintained and protected within the broader structure of Police Scotland, with improved access to wider support facilities and specialist equipment.
“Devolution of BTP was recommended by the Smith Commission, reached through cross-party agreement and integration will also ensure railway policing is fully accountable to the Scottish Parliament.”
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, of Police Scotland, said the force welcomed welcome the opportunity to contribute to the delivery of the integration programme.
He said: “The priority for Police Scotland, as always, is to ensure we continue to deliver the highest possible standards in terms of service delivery and that all of our communities, including people who work on and use the rail network, are kept safe.” A GERMAN-BORN silversmith is returning to Scotland for an exhibition 22 years after her first solo show in the country.
Simone ten Hompel, a designer and former winner of the Jerwood Award for visual artists, first brought her work to the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in 1995.
Her work has also featured at the V&A and the National Museums of Scotland.Ms ten Hompel, who has taught at the Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh College of Art, has an exhibition at the GSA’s Reid Gallery until February 23. Picture: Colin Mearns
MANUEL CORTES: BTP is ‘highlyregarded and super-efficient;.