British Transport Police/ Police Scotland Merger — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:32 am on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 9:32 am, 6th March 2018

Absolutely. We have to remember that the joint programme board is made up of representatives of the Scottish Government, the UK Government and Police Scotland. At their latest meeting in February, they all agreed to recommend a pause to the Scottish Government. None of them could see the implementation of integration being achieved safely by 1 April 2019.

The intervention of my hon. Friend Kirstene Hair takes me back to where we are now, which is the pause. We are in a welcome place: the SNP, Police Scotland and the joint programme board all accept that the implementation date of 1 April 2019 will not be met. Gone are the supportive comments from the Police Scotland high command that everything about the proposal is rosy.

I cannot forget the response I received to a question that I put as a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee; it came from Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins. Almost exactly a year ago today, on 7 March, I asked him about the problems we had seen with the merger of the eight forces into one and the ongoing challenges faced by Police Scotland. At that point last year, I was asking whether it was the correct time to force ahead with this merger. ACC Higgins, before the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee, replied:

“To be frank, two years is a luxury, based on what we had to do to bring Police Scotland together, so I am confident that the transition would occur”.

Two years as a luxury and confidence from an assistant chief constable of Police Scotland—all now wilted on the vine. Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has made it very clear, in his remarks to the joint programme board and since, that Police Scotland was not ready, that it was not a luxury to have two years to implement the integration and, therefore, that it is correct that we have now paused.