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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:38 am on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:38 am, 6th March 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, in what has been a strong debate on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Act 2017, which permits the merger of the British Transport police Scottish division with Police Scotland, although it does not make it obligatory. Clearly there are many other models, as we heard from Douglas Ross, who opened the debate so well, and from my hon. Friend Martin Whitfield, who explained the importance of the Smith commission and the devolution settlement in moving forward. As my hon. Friend Mr Sweeney articulated incredibly well, that meant not annexation but collaboration. We should move forward in that way, and the debate is timely in the light of the announcement of 20 February on the pause in the process.

It is vital in policing that policy decisions be backed by strong evidence. Sadly, I have heard more ideology from the Scottish National party today. As to SNP Members saying that they are confident there will be no looking back, confidence is not enough. We need strong evidence, because this is a matter of public safety. The transport network faces challenging issues today. When we hear that 83% of police oppose the measures, we need to understand why there is a lack of confidence in what the SNP has put forward.

We cannot take away some of the other challenges that are being brought to bear, particularly the governance and capacity issues within Police Scotland—not that they cannot be resolved in the future, but they certainly exist at this time. We have heard about the challenges over pensions, terms and conditions, and cross-border policing, which my hon. Friend Ian Murray has been pursuing through written questions and raised again today.