Scheme ‘would see morale plunge and many res­ig­na­tions’

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By KATH MUR­RAY

From the out­set, the in­te­gra­tion of BTP Scot­land into Po­lice Scot­land has been fraught with dif­fi­culty.

Orig­i­nally pro­posed as a cost-neu­tral project, in­te­gra­tion costs are al­ready in the mil­lions with heavy de­pen­dency on ex­pen­sive ex­ter­nal consultant­s.

The cost of de­liv­er­ing rail­way polic­ing is still un­quan­ti­fied, nor is it clear whether Po­lice Scot­land has the ca­pac­ity or ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­vide the same cen­tral sup­port ser­vices as the Bri­tish Trans­port Po­lice.

For Po­lice Scot­land, the project is viewed as a dis­trac­tion from the cur­rent re­form pro­gramme, and may well jeop­ar­dise plans to de­liver a bal­anced bud­get by 2021.

There are po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions for tax­pay­ers by dint of the size­able pen­sion li­a­bil­i­ties associated with the merger fur­ther down the line. And there are fi­nan­cial ram­i­fi­ca­tions for rail providers, who may be re­quired to cover ad­di­tional run­ning costs.

Terms, con­di­tions and pen­sions re­main un­re­solved, and cru­cially, there is very lit­tle ev­i­dence of the sup­port needed from staff for suc­cess­ful in­te­gra­tion.

A study of BTP Scot­land of­fi­cers and staff by my­self and Dr Colin Atkin­son found that 83 per cent of re­spon­dents op­posed the merger, and nearly two-thirds had con­sid­ered leav­ing as a re­sult; as one re­spon­dent put it: “Po­lice Scot­land will be in­her­it­ing dis­grun­tled, un­happy of­fi­cers with morale as low as can be due to be­ing forced into a merger that the ma­jor­ity of of­fi­cers do not want.

“I can see many re­sign­ing of hav­ing to move else­where in the UK.”

In the ab­sence of a busi­ness case, the merger also lacks sup­port from key stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the rail­way unions.

Fi­nally, the break-up of the cur­rent rail­way polic­ing net­work rep­re­sents a risk to the re­main­ing BTP, as a re­sult of its di­min­ished struc­ture.

Set against a back­drop of seem­ingly in­tractable ob­sta­cles and deep-rooted op­po­si­tion, it is likely that any move to con­sider al­ter­na­tive de­vo­lu­tion op­tions will be widely wel­comed.

“For Po­lice Scot­land, the project is viewed as a dis­trac­tion from the cur­rent re­form pro­gramme”

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