Save the British Transport Police
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In the light of the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London we call upon the Scottish Government to halt the break-up of the British Transport Police (BTP). The decision to merge Officers and Staff from BTP into Police Scotland has serious implications for the safety and security of rail passengers and the infrastructure of the railway system.
The British Transport Police are a highly skilled, railway dedicated, cross-border, national force. They carry out specialist counter-terrorism policing through Operation Alert which has been established for years.
This means that railway staff and BTP have a long standing mutual, daily and sometimes hourly, system that results in a level of cooperation and staffing which is at risk if BTP resources are taken into Police Scotland.
The Railway Policing Bill (Scotland) puts the safety of the travelling public across the UK at risk by removing the function of a BTP officer in Scotland altogether, causing serious complications with cross border policing. Despite an amendment tabled to protect the location of the BTP officers, it is not fit for purpose. Resources could still be removed to wider Police Scotland duties “at a time of crisis” leaving the railway wide open to attack when those resources are deployed elsewhere.
As a result, Operation Alert will be compromised by the integration proposal, meaning that there will be a loss of the inherent safety, especially in respect of terrorism. At a time when we know terrorists are targeting our railway stations this is an unacceptable compromise of passenger and rail staff safety.
There is a definite risk of the loss of specialist railway knowledge of police staff who are likely to be consumed into centralised departments in an organisation which is still offering staff redundancy after 4 years in existence.
The decision to break up BTP and force a merger with Police Scotland is opposed by BTP Officers, BTP staff, their trade unions and the British Transport Police itself. The so-called “consultation” carried out by the Scottish Government only offered one option and failed to discuss any alternatives other than full integration. The consultation itself has been widely criticised by independent research and HMICS. The consultation analysis acknowledged that the response was overwhelmingly negative yet this has still been ignored.
In short the proposals are:
· Unnecessary – there are better ways to ensure that BTP is fully accountable to the Scottish Government without full integration, yet still fully honouring the recommendation made in the Smith Commission.
· Likely to result in increased crime and decreased passenger safety.
· Likely to increase the risk of terrorist attack on the railways
We call on the Scottish Government to reverse their decision and look again at ways to increase their supervision of British Transport Police without compromising Passenger Safety.
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