I beg to move,
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. We had a slight wait for you to take the Chair, but I know better than most that the match cannot start without a referee, so it is good to have you in your place. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing us time for this debate, as well as all right hon. and hon. Members who supported the application—in particular, Martin Whitfield, who joined me in front of that Committee to present our case for the debate. I refer Members to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. My wife is a serving police officer: a police sergeant with Police Scotland.
I want to divide my remarks into three sections: the process from the Smith commission to the vote in the Scottish Parliament approving the proposed merger; where the process got to and the pause announced last month; and finally, the next steps and, I hope, the opportunities for British Transport police Scottish division.
Early in my remarks—before any Scottish National party Members jump up with interventions diligently provided to them by party researchers—I would like to note that the merger of the British Transport police into Police Scotland is wholly different from what was proposed in the Conservative manifesto. I strongly opposed from the outset the SNP plans in Scotland. Our plans in the UK manifesto pledged to protect specialist policin at a UK level by bringing together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and British Transport police. That is a completely different approach from the one supported by the SNP, which is to rip the Scottish operations out of the extremely successful British Transport police and merge them into Police Scotland—which has itself been beset with problems since its inception and formation as an amalgamation of eight regional forces.