Papers released this week by the joint programme board that is overseeing the British Transport Police merger show that work is still required to assess the merger’s cost. Does the First Minister agree that progressing the merger of the BTP and Police Scotland without doing a full cost analysis in the first instance demonstrates a shocking lack of financial prudence on the part of the Scottish Government? What comments does the First Minister have on the petition against the merger that was handed in this week and which has more than 11,500 signatures?
No, I do not agree with Mary Fee. The merger of the British Transport Police, which has now been devolved to the Scottish Government—something that Labour supported in the context of the Smith commission—is being taken forward for three main reasons: to improve accountability; to ensure that the transport police have access to Police Scotland’s wider range of resources; and to future proof the transport police’s future governance. As we know, the Conservatives’ manifesto for the last United Kingdom election said that they were going to create a bigger infrastructure police force and absorb the British Transport Police into it. As a result, if we do not take actions here, we risk leaving the British Transport Police isolated within that governance structure.
We will take forward the proposals sensibly and responsibly. Indeed, the joint programme board is there precisely to do the detailed work to ensure that this is a success, and we will continue to work with those employed in the British Transport Police to ensure that we take account of all their concerns as we go forward.