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

I agree with the points made by the hon. Gentleman. Nigel Goodband and the BTP Federation have been strong advocates for the BTP maintaining its current form in Scotland, with its strong links with Police Scotland and across the rail network. They are strongly opposed, as many of us in this Chamber and indeed in Holyrood are, to the SNP’s plans for integration.

I have just quoted ACC Bernie Higgins from almost a year ago to the day that two years was a luxury. Even more recently, however, SNP politicians have been saying, “Everything is fine. Don’t worry about this. We’ll keep on moving.” On 24 January 2018 in the Scottish Parliament, my colleagues in the Scottish Conservatives, led by our justice spokesperson Liam Kerr, moved a motion calling for a pause, but every single SNP Member voted against that motion.

Not only did the SNP MSPs vote against, but they gave us some great quotes. Rona Mackay said:

“What more proof do the Conservatives need that the merger has been planned meticulously to ensure a smooth transition in 2019?”

She continued:

“It would be preposterous to pause the process while negotiations are on-going, so I urge the Conservatives to stop trying to derail the merger, which will make Scotland a safer and more secure place in which to live and travel.”

Her colleague, Fulton MacGregor, said that

“plans are going as expected and there should be no issue with integration going ahead on 1 April next year.”

Deputy SNP leadership candidate James Dornan said:

“The terms and conditions have been worked on regularly and I am pretty sure that, when they get to the merger, everybody will be happy.”—[Scottish Parliament Official Report, 24 January 2018;
c. 54-64.]

It turns out no one is happy, because we will not achieve the merger on the timescale put forward by the SNP Government. They were wholly unprepared for the problems faced by a number of elements in the joint programme board, yet they were optimistic that everything would be fine, it could all be sorted out and, finally, they could get rid of the “British” from the name “British Transport police” operating in Scotland.

I want to look at a number of other aspects. We have had many useful briefings for this debate, and in particular I welcome the contribution of the British Transport Police Federation. A recently published study by Dr Kath Murray and Dr Colin Atkinson looked at the British Transport police merger in Scotland. It was published just before the announcement of a pause, but it included many useful pieces of information. For example, 83% of British Transport police officers in Scotland responded to the study to say that they were either very unsupportive or quite unsupportive of the merger plans—83% of our BTP officers in Scotland; that tells a story.

The study was also useful for some of the quotes of the respondents, which I want to read out. Speaking about the BTP Scotland merger, one officer said:

“It is being destroyed for political reasons. I am happy with my job and the way I am treated. It is an infuriating turn of events.

It is this political motivation which has angered officers most rather than any other issue.”

Another said:

“I find it incredible that a merger of this size has been allowed to progress without a formal business case outlining the benefits and risks.”

One final quote is:

“The communication throughout has been woefully lacking. Two years of talks;
I am unsure what, if anything, has actually taken place.

The vacuum of information is filled with rumour and hyperbole which tends to affect morale.”

Those are just three of the comments made by officers who contributed to that study, but they are reiterated time and again by the British Transport Police Federation, which is standing up for its officers and opposing the merger.