PLANS to give Police Scotland control of the British Transport Police (BTP) have been criticised after a report applauded transport officers' use of stop and search.

A watchdog contrasted Police Scotland's scandal-hit frisk policy with the way BTP officers carried out searches, but Ministers are pushing ahead with proposals to effectively wind up the UK-wide organisation.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) last year launched an investigation into Sir Stephen House's stop and search policy following a series of controversies.

The report, published on Tuesday, found that Scottish officers do not have a "common view" of what should be recorded as a stop and search, and noted there was no guidance on how frisks should be counted.

As a result of this confusion, inspectors said they had "no confidence" in the force's search data.

HMICS also claimed officers felt under pressure to carry out searches and noted that the number of non-statutory frisks on under-12s had been underestimated.

The Scottish Government then appointed QC John Scott to chair a group on the future of the troubled policy.

His group will consider whether there should be an "absolute cessation" of so-called consensual stop and search - where a frisk takes places without suspicion - and will draft a code of practice.

However, the damning picture painted by HMICS contrasted sharply with the findings on the BTP in the same report.

Inspectors described the BTP's stop and search approach as "well developed" and found that, unlike Police Scotland, the railway police always record whether a frisk leads to an arrest.

It also made clear that the BTP in Scotland do not conduct non-statutory searches, whereas a majority of frisks carried out by Police Scotland are not rooted in law.

In addition, inspectors reported that all the force's searches are reviewed by an officer's supervisor before they can be submitted.

The report's author concluded that the BTP approach was "comprehensive", adding: "Stop and search was viewed by BTP officers as an intrusive tactic that had to be conducted ethically and legitimately.

"They were keen to uphold the reputation of the force and ensure individuals were being treated fairly."

However, under the UK Government's plans for further devolution to Holyrood, law and order on the railways will become the Scottish Parliament's responsibility.

The Scottish Government recently stated that the BTP would become part of Police Scotland, saying: "Police Scotland is responsible for all policing in Scotland outwith the railways and we believe the functions of the British Transport Police should be integrated within the single service.

"The BTP provide a specialist function that is recognised and valued by the rail industry and its passengers and it is essential that this specialism is maintained within Police Scotland.

"This will ensure the most efficient and effective delivery of all policing in Scotland, keeping communities safe and strong".

The Scottish Police Authority, which oversees Police Scotland, has started discussions with the BTP on its future.

Tom Harris, Scottish Labour's candidate in Glasgow South, said: "British Transport Police have got an expertise and skill in relation to transport. In my experience, they have an exceptional record and I have strong reservations about the customs and practices of the current leadership of Police Scotland being imposed on the BTP."

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: "The British Transport Police is thought of extremely highly among the public, and not just when it comes to stop and search.

"So passengers will be concerned that under the new system they will be going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

"It's a hefty price to pay for the SNP's whim of centralising our police force even further."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Police Scotland have announced their presumption against consensual stop and search for all age groups and their intention to implement the HMICS recommendations in full, both welcome steps.

"The work of the British Transport Police in Scotland is valued by the Scottish Government and in taking forward the recommendations of the Smith Commission, agreed by all parties, their valuable specialist skills will be protected and maintained."