3. Integration Arrangements
The Scottish Government believes that a specialist railway policing function within Police Scotland would ensure that railway policing in Scotland is accountable, through the Chief Constable and the SPA, to the people of Scotland; that it would build on the skills, knowledge and experience of the BTP; and would enhance railway policing in Scotland through direct access to the local, specialist and national resources of Police Scotland.
There is already a strong connection between the policing of the railways and wider policing in Scotland with regular joint operational planning and joint response to emergencies. The Scottish Government considers that having all of the major policing functions in Scotland under a single command structure will provide a range of opportunities to ensure a fully unified and integrated service for policing the transport infrastructure, bringing specialist railway policing together with policing at airports and the road network.
The Scottish Government is the principal funder of all railway infrastructure and service provision in Scotland and investment in new and better services to support passenger growth remains a key priority.
Question 1: During the integration of BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland, how best can we ensure that the benefits of greater accountability and integration are delivered within the wider policing of Scotland's transport infrastructure? What additional benefits should we be looking to achieve?
3.1 125 respondents addressed this question.
3.2 Responses were diverse and ranged from those providing constructive ideas on ways in which to move forward whilst preserving what were perceived to be the valuable elements of the status quo, to those highly critical of the proposal to integrate the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland.
3.3 Around one-quarter of responses to this question explicitly opposed the integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland. Recurring views were that the current system of operation works very effectively and there is no problem to address. Many respondents considered the proposal to be politically driven, with some questioning whether a business-case had been made for the change.
3.4 A few respondents provided their view that a consultation on whether or not the BTP should be integrated into Police Scotland had not taken place and this should precede consultation on how best to execute the integration.
3.5 Several respondents argued strongly that the BTP function should remain UK-wide in order to provide a seamless cross-border service. A recurring comment was that rail crimes and incidents do not tend to be localised, but can quickly move from one jurisdiction to another. A few respondents emphasised their view that a UK-wide approach is essential for tackling terrorism issues in particular. Furthermore, links in career develoment and progression between transport police in Scotland and the north of England in particular, were highlighted by rail industry organisations.
Views on how best to ensure that the benefits of greater accountability are delivered
3.6 Despite having reservations about the proposal, many respondents provided their views on how best to ensure that the benefits of greater accountability are delivered.
3.7 A general view was that current levels of accountability are highly valued by the rail industry, rail operators and passengers alike. One rail industry organisation remarked that in their view the alignment of objectives between the BTP and rail operators is the closest it has ever been with significant benefits for travellers and stakeholders. Respondents recommended building on what has been achieved rather than re-inventing new approaches. A few commented that Police Scotland has recent experience of devising new accountability lines, lessons from which could be usefully harnessed.
3.8 Four respondents from two different sectors suggested the establishment of a new Board or Committee to which Police Scotland could be held accountable for the delivery of railway policing. Mention was made of a specialist Governance Board comprising representatives from the rail industry (passenger and freight), appointed by the Minister for Transport. An individual respondent called for a layman's committee to hold Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to account.
3.9 Several respondents argued for a compromise situation in which the BTP are not integrated into Police Scotland, but are nonetheless answerable to the Scottish Government. In this way, the BTP would be retained as a separate entity but the Chief Constable or local commander for BTP in Scotland would report to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland and the SPA. Collaborative setting of future policing objectives between the BTP in Scotland and Police Scotland was proposed. These respondents forsaw benefits in terms of accountability in this compromise position, but without the need to implement new legislation and create upheaval amongst two organisations. A shared view was:
"…the Smith Commission recommended devolving responsibility in Scotland for the British Transport Police ( BTP) to the Scottish Parliament but made no reference about the absorption of the BTP into Police Scotland" (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers).
3.10 One individual called for a seat on the SPA for a representative from the rail industry, and a seat on the BTPA for a representative from the Scottish Government.
3.11 A few respondents suggested that clear plans which outlined the remit of the BTP in Police Scotland would be beneficial for accountability. Service Level Agreements and/or clear policing plans were mentioned in this regard.
3.12 An emerging theme was for data on the performance of the BTP in Scotland to be robust, accessible and transparent.
3.13 One local authority respondent remarked that robust local scrutiny should run alongside national scrutiny of the BTP. A rail industry representative recommended that regular reporting from Police Scotland to Community Planning Partnerships should continue but proposed that regular reporting to Boards of Regional Transport Partnerships would also be helpful.
3.14 A rail industry respondent called for rail users to continue to have access to BTP policing plans, strategic plans, objectives and other information.
3.15 Two respondents (one rail industry representative and one individual) urged that meaningful performance indicators (such as time taken to open the West Coast mainline when responding to an incident) and other statistics be made available on a regular basis.
Views on how best to ensure that the benefits of greater integration are delivered
3.16 An overarching view was that the specialism of the BTP, built up over years, should be respected, acknowledged and retained in any integration with Police Scotland. A common concern was that such specialism could be diluted by BTP becoming subsumed within the larger Police Scotland body. A few respondents considered that without an increase in budget to accommodate the BTP within Police Scotland, their specialist policing function may gradually become watered down. A few respondents called for "ring fencing" this specialism and ensuring its funding, culture and successful schemes such as the 61016 text service and the BTP Fatality Hotline, are maintained.
3.17 Two respondents recommended that the BTP specialist function in Police Scotland be led by an officer of "appropriate seniority".
3.18 There were mixed views amongst individual respondents on whether the policing of railways specialism could be broadened to an overarching transport policing function, encompassing airports, ports, roads and coastal areas.
3.19 A contrasting view amongst a few individuals was that this would dilute the specialist function of the BTP.
3.20 Several respondents from a range of sectors urged for increased or at least current levels of funding of the BTP in Scotland to continue in order to ensure benefits of integration.
3.21 Another recurring view was for strong links to be made between the BTP in Scotland and the specialist crime function in order to address threats to security in a joined-up manner.
3.22 The Scottish Information Commissioner commented on the likely volume of personal data to be transferred to Police Scotland as a result of integration.
3.23 Other views were that integration would be enhanced by: taking into account the views of the BTP and various train operators on how best to proceed; ensuring that BTP officers experience the same training and share the same aims and values as their Police Scotland colleagues; ensuring communication is effective between the BTP and Scottish Ministers, with expanded working relationships between BTPA and SPA; and incorporating transport policing into local policing plans alongside a commitment to retaining local policing knowledge.
What additional benefits can be achieved?
3.24 Additional benefits identified by a range of respondents from a variety of sectors were:
- Reduction in emergency response times, particularly in remote areas.
- Better value for money due to rationalisation of shared support services/control room staff.
- More transparent accountability as the SPA will be more accessible to people in Scotland than the BTPA.
- Broadening of the rail transport remit to include wider public transport. Sharing of expertise/synergies on wider policing of Scotland's transport infrastructure.
- Possibly fewer Scotrail employees needed due to an increase in BTP staff.
- More meaningful local srutiny and accountability alongside national level accountability through the SPA.
- Stronger links with Police Scotland should support improved sharing of knowledge and response in areas where dedicated railway police are not present.
- Opportunity for the work of the transport police to impact on wider policy areas such as Equally Safe, Scotland's strategy for eradicating violence against women and girls; improved contribution to addressing hate crime.
3.25 In contrast, many respondents argued that there will be no benefits to integration, only threats and challenges. Several provided their view that Police Scotland has not yet achieved stability following integration and to attempt further change to this organisation would not be sensible.
3.26 The main threats and challenges associated with BTP integration were identified as:
- Loss of specialist skills and identity built up over years.
- Reduction in safety of rail passengers and staff. Two respondents referred to current high levels of passenger satisfaction in areas of personal security on rail tranport and in stations and expressed concern that this could be jeopardised by integration.
- Loss of access to specialist training, such as dealing with terrorist incidents, with much of the expertise residing in London.
- Possible increased costs for train operators.
- Reduction in service resilience.
- Loss of officer posts.
- Loss of joined-up policing over different jurisdictions, e.g. cross-border football traffic: "As Anglo-Scottish operator we are concerned over the timely response to incidents just north of the border (for example Lockerbie)" (TransPennine Express).
- Significant amount of legislative change and organisational re-structuring.
Question 2: What are your views on how to ensure that the skills, knowledge and experience of BTP officers are retained within Police Scotland?
3.27 107 respondents addressed this question.
3.28 There was overarching agreement that BTP officers do have specialist skills which need to be retained. One respondent referred to BTP skills required in relation to the nuclear industry; another highlighted BTP skills require in relation to suicide prevention and mental health issues:
"…we would urge the retention of BTP's skills, policies and best practices in rail suicide prevention and mental health within Police Scotland" (Samaritans).
3.29 A substantial minority of respondents, largely individuals, expressed doubt that the specialist skills and knowledge of BTP officers could be retained over time within the Police Scotland structure. Two representative bodies shared the view that the lateral development opportunities for BTP officers, suggested in the consultation document, placed even more risk to the railway policing specialism by potentially detracting BTP officers from their primary focus.
Establishing a new Police Division
3.30 29 respondents specifically recommended that the specialist nature of BTP policing be retained by establishing a specialist BTP Division within Police Scotland, and sitting alongside the other specialist Police Divisions already existing. Suggestions were made for naming the Division: Scottish Transport Police; Scottish Railway Police; or "Rail Policing Unit". Rail industry representatives called for the new Division to be led by a suitably qualified and senior officer experienced in railway policing.
3.31 Five individuals raised the possibility that BTP be incorporated into a broader "Transport Police Division", which one described as the best of both worlds, by maintaining the specialism of railway policing whilst sharing this expertise across other forms of transport work.
Ensuring pay and conditions are protected
3.32 A recurring view was that BTP numbers should be maintained in the merger, possibly with ring-fencing of funding in order to secure this.
3.33 A few individuals emphasised their view that pay and conditions (including pension rights) of current BTP staff should be protected throughout.
3.34 Calls were made by two representative bodies and an individual respondent for early reassurances of transfer arrangements regarding pay and conditions and other rights such as travel benefits, in order to minimise uncertainty:
"The current proposals are causing significant uncertainty and any clarity that helps overcome staffs' fears should be made available as soon as possible to reduce concerns and mitigate against staff leaving" (Individual respondent).
3.35 One representative body and a respondent from the rail industry both recommended that BTP officers should continue to have a career path within their specialism following the integration, including potential for cross-border placements.
Maintaining specialist training
3.36 A recurring theme emerging from respondents across a range of sectors was that the specialist nature of the training of BTP officers should continue. In addition, several respondents highlighted that local training for local knowledge should also be a key aspect of their training.
3.37 One respondent urged that sharing training with BTP in England and Wales should continue in some form:
"…it is important to recognise that there may be specialist advice and knowledge which the remaining BTP HQ for England and Wales may be able to provide which is relevant to Scotland and it is important that this source of intelligence and knowledge is not severed" (Caledonian Sleepers).
3.38 Four respondents identified benefits to BTP staff sharing their specialist knowledge with general Police Scotland officers. One reported that this broader beneficial effect had occurred when Royal Parks police were integrated with the Metropolitan Police.
3.39 A few other relevant comments were made each by one respondent:
- Integration should commence with a review of the current capabilities of BTP officers in Scotland.
- Control room staff and their commanders will need to understand the specialist protocols of BTP work in order to support it post-integration. For example, the priority given to getting the network up and running again after incidents.
- BTP staff will have valuable contributions to make on how best to integrate with Police Scotland and they should be involved in informing the plans.