TALKS are starting between the UK and Scottish governments over plans for Police Scotland to take over railway security.
With Police Scotland just a week away from its first birthday, Scottish Government justice officials have scheduled talks with Whitehall on its take-over of British Transport Police (BTP).
SNP leaders - and some insiders in both forces - have been eager for a merger for years but contacts between Holyrood and Westminster have failed to make progress.
The BTP, a single UK-wide policing network covering railways mostly funded by train companies, is now the biggest law enforcement agency outside the control of Police Scotland.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "We believe the policing of railways should be fully aligned with the operations of our police service with a much clearer route for command and accountability to the Chief Constable.
"95% of rail travel that starts in Scotland finishes in Scotland and demand is continuing to grow.
"To help ensure a consistent level of service, with the option to advance a more integrated approach to transport policing, we have been in correspondence with the Secretary of State for Transport and a meeting is being organised with Westminster to discuss this further."
The BTP has always been viewed as a UK national force because railway journeys do not respect traditional policing boundaries. Politically, it is answerable to the British Department for Transport and its minister, Patrick McLoughlin.
The force, aside from keeping travellers safe from routine crime, plays a key role in counter-terrorism and has huge expertise in infrastructure protection that some of its most senior officers believe could be expanded within Police Scotland.
Sir Stephen House, chief constable of Police Scotland, said any proposed merger was a "political decision". He added: "We work very closely with the BTP. The person leading the Commonwealth Games transport planning is its Scottish commander, Chief Superintendent Ellie Bird.
"If the decision was taken on BTP to merge it with Police Scotland we would be very pleased to welcome it but it is a political decision for Cabinet Secretary Kenny MacAskill to take to the Home Office and Department for Transport."
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We are aware of the Scottish Government's interest in this issue and look forward to discussing it."
BTP rank-and-file officers in Scotland, which number around 100, are understood to be increasingly eager to join Police Scotland - not least because terms and conditions for officers in Scotland are better than for those serving in UK forces.
The BTP's UK leaders, however, have previously said they see no reason to merge the force's Scottish wing with Police Scotland but wish to promote seamless services with local law enforcement.
The force currently has a substantial base in Glasgow and patrols both mainline rail services across Scotland and the city's Subway.
Other UK-wide law enforcement agencies in Scotland include the MoD Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, which, respectively, guard Faslane and nuclear power stations.
The recently-established UK National Crime Agency also has an office in Scotland at Gartcosh near Glasgow, but is not a frontline policing body.