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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:27 am on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy) 10:27 am, 6th March 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and I thank you for your guidance. I congratulate Douglas Ross on securing this debate. He raised important issues, and I will try to address some of them in my speech. Parts of his contribution felt a bit like Saturday when the football was happening in front of me but I was not necessarily enjoying what I was seeing.

For me, the low point is the suggestion that this change is driven by a desire to get rid of the word “British” from British Transport police, as that clearly is not a credible argument. The hon. Member for Moray also accused my hon. Friend Stuart C. McDonald of shouting and screaming, but all he was doing was trying to make valid interventions. The hon. Gentleman did make important points, however, and I will come on to them.

Ian Murray confirmed that five parties in the Smith commission agreed on the devolution of the Scottish division of British Transport police, and we must understand that devolution is about handing powers to the Scottish Parliament, and about that Parliament making decisions using those powers. That is where the thrust of the debate should be. The hon. Gentleman also said that there was no train station right on the border, and Mr Sweeney intervened and said that passengers were stranded at Carlisle last week, and if it had not been for the British Transport police helping them to go up the road, they might have struggled. However, I fail to see how that will change in a new set-up. The police will always do their best to help passengers, constituents and members of the public, and that will not change. To suggest that it will is to cloud the issue.

Bill Grant mentioned the overall budget, but he failed to say that Scotland currently gets 5% of the BTP budget. Given that it has more than 11% of the rail network, that suggests a budget deficit. Perhaps that can be looked at in future, with the possible merger with Police Scotland.