Scheme ‘would see morale plunge and many resignations’
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”