THE integration of British Transport Police into Police Scotland must be scrapped following the recent terror attacks across the UK, a union has demanded.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has launched an online 
petition urging the Scottish Government to ditch the Railway Policing Bill.

The legislation will hand power over railway policing to Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority watchdog after the 2016 Scotland Act extended new powers to the Scottish Parliament.

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It passed its first hurdle at Holyrood last month, despite calls from Labour and the Tories for the move to be reconsidered.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said that, after the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, “people want and need to be better, not worse, protected”.

He said: “The SNP has been put on notice that it has no mandate to drive through devolution for devolution’s sake.

“Rail safety is not a political principle. It is a public necessity and the SNP would do well to heed the lack of mood in Scotland for its Nationalist interest being placed over the national interest.

“The national interest demands we retain a single trans-UK British Transport Police as a highly skilled, railway-dedicated, cross-border, national force.

“BTP carries out specialist counter-terrorism policing through Operation Alert, which has been established for years, and railway staff and BTP have a long-standing mutual, daily – sometimes hourly – contact system that results in a high level of co-operation and staffing that the break-up and merger into Police Scotland will abolish. 

“It’s a ludicrous way to make policing better or security on railways better.

BTP has warned the merger, it could see fatal rail incidents take much longer to investigate and put the network at greater risk of severe disruption from terrorist attacks.

Decades of experience in dealing with IRA threats would also be lost, meaning terror incidents may cause significantly more disruption than previously, the force warned.

There is also a “potential risk” of staff deciding to retire from the BTP or leave, rather than joining Police Scotland. 

The Scottish parliament’s Justice Committee has given majority backing to the Bill despite one Labour and three Tory MSPs withholding their 
support.

The RMT, the union representing transport workers, has also warned the move will put rail passengers and workers at an increased safety risk, and it told the committee it has not ruled out taking industrial action over the proposals.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland will ensure railway policing in Scotland is accountable, through the chief constable and the SPA, to the people of Scotland.

“Maintaining and improving safety and security is our main priority and Police Scotland will maintain a dedicated railway policing unit protected within the broader structure of the force.

“Integration will provide a single command structure for policing in Scotland with seamless access to wider support facilities and specialist resources including Police Scotland’s counter-terrorism capabilities, providing an enhanced service provision to the rail industry and travelling public.”