THE controversial merger of Police Scotland and British Transport Police was “entirely” a political decision and did not include a detailed business case, according to a leaked watchdog report.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) also claimed that rail operators, which currently fund the BTP, have suggested the transfer to Police Scotland was a “material change” to existing agreements that may not receive their “consent”.

The watchdog also noted that the Scottish Police Authority – the body which holds the police to account – did not have the “capability or capacity” to deliver the transfer and agreed the single force was better placed to lead on the programme.

Loading article content

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said the Government had been “blinkered” in its approach to the BTP, adding:

“Their gung-ho commitment to dismantling the BTP in Scotland failed to consider all the options, ignored practical insight and didn't show any care for the impact on railway policing elsewhere in the UK. In short, it didn't stack up.”

The BTP has a division north of the border which is supported by a command team in London. However, in June MSPs passed legislation which paves the way for the integration of railway policing into Police Scotland.

HMICS has carried out an overview of the transfer and a “factual accuracy draft”, which could be subject to changes, has been obtained by The Herald.

The draft stated: “As the decision to transfer BTP’s functions in Scotland to Police Scotland was entirely a political decision, no detailed and authoritative business case which articulates the benefits, disadvantages or costs of the transfer to Police Scotland was developed.”

HMICS mentioned that the Government had produced a “policy memorandum”, but added: “The key benefits set out in the Policy Memorandum only make reference to the future state of railway policing in Scotland. No benefits to BTP as an organisation or the future operation of railway policing in England and Wales have been articulated.

“Neither does the Policy Memorandum set out any disbenefits or risks of the proposed transfer of railway policing to Police Scotland, either for any of the organisations involved or for the state of railway policing in Scotland or in England and Wales.”

According to HMICS, the policy will create a “dual command structure” for railway policing across the UK:

“No information is set out regarding the impact this may have on railway policing, how this impact may be mitigated, or why a single command structure for policing in Scotland is more beneficial than a single command structure for railway policing across Great Britain.”

On the SPA, the draft stated: “We do not consider that the SPA currently has the capability or capacity to manage and deliver a programme of this scale and believe that the integration can therefore be best managed as a programme within Police Scotland’s transformational change portfolio….”

It is understood the transfer has been set up as a project inside Police Scotland and the SPA is providing oversight.

HMCIS also reported that a “significant proportion” of BTP officers and staff in Scotland will be able to retire ahead of the transfer, including “key” members of the command team.

On rail companies potentially not providing their “consent” to changes to their current agreements with the BTP, the draft stated: “They believe they should have been given three years’ notice prior to integration.”

However, HMICS made clear the transfer can be “successfully delivered” provided the issues addressed are highlighted.

McArthur added: "The SPA and Police Scotland are under enough pressure as it is thanks to the Scottish Government's botched centralisation of policing. They are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to be taking on new functions and responsibilities at this time.

"Ministers must commit to making a statement to Parliament when this report is officially published."

An HMICS spokesperson said the watchdog would not comment on draft reports: “Given the passage of time between our inspection and drafting our report, we received additional evidence from stakeholders, which provided opportunities for HMICS to update the content of the factual accuracy version of our report. HMICS will only comment on our final report once published.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We consistently set out the case for integrating the British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland throughout the Scottish Parliament’s consideration of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. We also set out our approach to working in partnership with the BTP, BTP Authority, Police Scotland, SPA and UK Government to deliver the range of benefits, and have made a commitment to provide ongoing reports to Parliament on progress towards integration."

An SPA spokesman said: "The SPA Board made clear at its public board meeting in May that the most appropriate place to manage an operational transition of this nature should be within the overall transformation resource being developed within Police Scotland.”