SNP put Transport Police merger on ice

Huma Yousaf has admitted to Holyrood's Justice Committee that he was exploring 'alternative options' to the long delayed merger plans.

The proposed merger would have seen the British Transport Police intigrated into Police Scotland, but have been repeatedly pushed back amidst opposition from trade unions and opposition politicians.

The Justice Secretary had previously insisted the merger would go ahead by April 2019, despite opposition, but in a letter to Holyrood's Justice Committee, he said: "My officials have been working with stakeholders to explore further the options for enhanced accountability to the Scottish Parliament. "

"The options discussed ranged from voluntary information-sharing agreements to exploring new governance and accountability mechanisms."

"Last month's event demonstrated a general consensus among stakeholders that legislation currently in force could be used to create an arrangement that facilitates a stronger oversight role for SPA in relation to railway policing in Scotland."

"Both the SPA and British Transport Police Authority have committed to exploring that option further and discussing how it might work in practice."

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson said the letter confirmed a "U-turn from [the] SNP".

“The public, experts and officers themselves have always been opposed to this ideological move from the SNP government."

“It is welcome Mr Yousaf has finally recognised the plan to merge is a non-starter and is now pursuing alternatives."

“The SNP government must now take the possibility of a merger of BTP and Police Scotland completely off the table. This letter confirms that they need to find another option but refuses to admit full integration is a ‘dead parrot’ policy." added Johnson.

“Such a move would provide clarity for officers themselves, as well as allow the proper consideration of other options. "

“The SNP government has really messed this up – and now it must start the work to put it right.”

The decision to reverse course has been welcomed by the TSSA, with Manuel Cortes commenting: “I am glad Humza Yousaf has had the political courage to reverse his predecessor’s decision."

“The breakup of BTP and its merger with Police Scotland was opposed by everyone involved in railway policing from the bobbies on the trains to the senior management, to the unions, to the train operating companies. But previous Justice Secretary Michael Matheson put nationalism ahead of national interest and pushed ahead anyway."

“Now Humza Yousaf has admitted to the Justice Committee that the aim of greater oversight of railway policing by the Scottish Government can be achieved without an expensive and traumatic breakup.

“Michael Matheson should hang his head in shame today for all the unnecessary stress he’s put our members, and the BTP Police Officers through for what was little more than a nationalist vanity project.”

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