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Techie1

BBC: MSPs pass Scottish railway policing merger bill

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Techie1

MSPs have passed legislation aimed at merging railway policing north of the border into Police Scotland.

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill is the first step towards the national force taking on the role of British Transport Police (BTP).

There had been a lengthy debate over the plan, with police bosses warning it could be "massively complicated" and "a real challenge".

The bill passed by 68 votes to 53, with the Greens backing the SNP.

Labour and the Conservatives have opposed the merger and the bill throughout, and the Lib Dems - who had supported the legislation in the stage one vote in order to pursue amendments at committee stage - also voted against the bill.

Look back on the stage three debate and vote on Holyrood Live

The Scottish government has long wanted to integrate railway policing services into the single national force, and tabled a bill to that end in December 2016.

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill confers extra powers on the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Service of Scotland, but further legislation would be needed at Holyrood and Westminster to transfer staff, properties and cross-border policing functions.

The Scottish government insists the integration will provide "efficient and effective" delivery of policing.

However, there has been debate over the plan, with concerns ranging from how cross-border services would be affected to the potential dilution of the special skills of transport officers.

The BTP wanted to continue providing railway policing in Scotland, but with oversight from Holyrood rather than Westminster.

Chief Constable Paul Crowther warned MSPs that a merger could present a "real challenge" in replacing officers amid a "significant outflow of expertise".

However, Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins told the justice committee the move was not a "land-grab" by his force, saying the transition would be "complicated, but not insurmountable".

'Absolutely committed'

After a series of votes on amendments during the stage three debate, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said the "primary objective" of the move was to "maintain and enhance high standards of safety".

He said the bill would improve accountability of railway policing in Scotland, and said he remained "absolutely committed" to backing staff.

The Scottish Conservatives opposed the plans, with MSP Oliver Mundell describing the merger as "an ill-judged and ill-thought out idea".

He added: "The list of those with concerns is almost as long as the Scottish government's list of excuses on policing matters."

Image copyrightBRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE

MSPs have passed legislation aimed at merging railway policing north of the border into Police Scotland.

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill is the first step towards the national force taking on the role of British Transport Police (BTP).

There had been a lengthy debate over the plan, with police bosses warning it could be "massively complicated" and "a real challenge".

The bill passed by 68 votes to 53, with the Greens backing the SNP.

Labour and the Conservatives have opposed the merger and the bill throughout, and the Lib Dems - who had supported the legislation in the stage one vote in order to pursue amendments at committee stage - also voted against the bill.

Look back on the stage three debate and vote on Holyrood Live

The Scottish government has long wanted to integrate railway policing services into the single national force, and tabled a bill to that end in December 2016.

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill confers extra powers on the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Service of Scotland, but further legislation would be needed at Holyrood and Westminster to transfer staff, properties and cross-border policing functions.

The Scottish government insists the integration will provide "efficient and effective" delivery of policing.

However, there has been debate over the plan, with concerns ranging from how cross-border services would be affected to the potential dilution of the special skills of transport officers.

Image captionTransport Minister Humza Yousaf said the government had "listened closely" to concerns about the plans

The BTP wanted to continue providing railway policing in Scotland, but with oversight from Holyrood rather than Westminster.

Chief Constable Paul Crowther warned MSPs that a merger could present a "real challenge" in replacing officers amid a "significant outflow of expertise".

However, Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins told the justice committee the move was not a "land-grab" by his force, saying the transition would be "complicated, but not insurmountable".

'Absolutely committed'

After a series of votes on amendments during the stage three debate, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said the "primary objective" of the move was to "maintain and enhance high standards of safety".

He said the bill would improve accountability of railway policing in Scotland, and said he remained "absolutely committed" to backing staff.

The Scottish Conservatives opposed the plans, with MSP Oliver Mundell describing the merger as "an ill-judged and ill-thought out idea".

He added: "The list of those with concerns is almost as long as the Scottish government's list of excuses on policing matters."

Image captionThe bill was passed by 68 votes to 53

Labour's Claire Baker also spoke out against the plan, warning of a loss of expertise and saying: "The Scottish government have ignored concerns of staff and unions".

Her colleague Neil Bibby, who moved a series of amendments to the bill, said it was "shocking" that the government was "ignoring the views of our police officers".

Lib Dem MSP Mike Russell said the merger was the riskiest of three options put forward, saying that ministers had decided that the majority of those in the policing sector who opposed the move were wrong.

However, Green member John Finnie said his party would support the bill on the condition there was no detriment to staff.

Commenting after the bill was approved, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "With this move we are ensuring that policing on Scotland's 93 million annual rail journeys is fully accountable to the people of Scotland and our parliament.

"Making this change gives our railway officers access to the specialist resources of the UK's second largest police force including, crucially, counter-terrorism capabilities."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40404532

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Cathedral Bobby

Just the SNP severing another link before their beloved Ref 2, albeit this has been delayed. I am sure a couple of years from now we will be talking about SCEXIT from the UK. BTP seem to provide a very good level of service both North and South of the border, why change something that isn't broken. No doubt this will hasten the creation of the National Infrastructure force. Bah humbug

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MajorDisaster
22 minutes ago, Cathedral Bobby said:

Just the SNP severing another link before their beloved Ref 2, albeit this has been delayed. I am sure a couple of years from now we will be talking about SCEXIT from the UK. BTP seem to provide a very good level of service both North and South of the border, why change something that isn't broken. No doubt this will hasten the creation of the National Infrastructure force. Bah humbug

Do you think for one moment that Sturgeon gives a toss about effective policing?  The mere fact that the object in question has British in the title is enough to ensure it is a target of the Nationalists in their never ending Crusade to destroy the Union.  Personally I think BTP should offer any officer who wishes it a transfer south of the border.

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Milankovitch

BTP don't provide much of a service outside of the central belt. Their standard ETA north of the central belt is usually three hours (I wish I was joking) and local officers end up picking up a lot of railway calls. They are great when they do turn up but they are a token presence outside of the central belt and aren't able to provide much of a service at all.

 

The BTP cops I meet are usually very apologetic about all of this but it isn't their fault they are spread so thinly, delayed trains in this part of the UK don't make the headlines so the TOCs aren't interested in putting any more money in to give them the resources they should have. It's a shame because it makes it a lot easier for something like this to happen than it really ought to be but BTP really lack the capability outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow to provide the high level of service they do provide in the central belt. It doesn't help that they are starting on less than a PC in Police Scotland would be.

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Cathedral Bobby
34 minutes ago, MajorDisaster said:

Do you think for one moment that Sturgeon gives a toss about effective policing?  The mere fact that the object in question has British in the title is enough to ensure it is a target of the Nationalists in their never ending Crusade to destroy the Union.  Personally I think BTP should offer any officer who wishes it a transfer south of the border.

I wholeheartedly agree. No officer should be forced to transfer. It was the most satisfying element of the election, as a party they saw a 37% loss in their Westminster seats. But I am sure as soon as they can get back onto their favourite SCEXIT preoccupation they will, and stuff all else, police included.

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Hyphen

Its a strange one, I wonder how long it will be for the merger of BTP, CNC and MOD and if this will have any bearing on that?

I can't see the point of this move if that is what the UK government want to do?

I might be wrong but I have heard that Police Scotland hasn't gone as smoothly as hoped, not sure adding this in to the mix is really going to help. I guess as has been mentioned it probably isn't even a consideration for the SNP.

I can see what @Milankovitchis saying though, I can imagine the response times are near non existent in some parts let alone any sort of support services or specialist resources. It definitely needs to be looked at in some way. 

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Milankovitch
22 hours ago, Hyphen said:

Its a strange one, I wonder how long it will be for the merger of BTP, CNC and MOD and if this will have any bearing on that?

I can't see the point of this move if that is what the UK government want to do?

If anything I think this will just speed that up to be honest.

22 hours ago, Hyphen said:

I might be wrong but I have heard that Police Scotland hasn't gone as smoothly as hoped, not sure adding this in to the mix is really going to help. I guess as has been mentioned it probably isn't even a consideration for the SNP.

The big issue with Police Scotland is money. Just the same as other forces in the UK budgets are being slashed but a different approach has been taken with the mergers. It means officer numbers have been fairly static but money has to be saved elsewhere so a lot of police staff have gone, the estate has been downsized and so on.

 

Whether that is the right thing to do or not is up for debate but when I look at what is going on south of the border I'm really glad I don't work down there. Double crewing is still the norm, the "old" pay scales have been kept and various other changes that have happened in E&W haven't up here. The only real alternative was to cut officer numbers as has happened in E&W but it's difficult to argue that was a better option now that we are starting to see the effects of that.

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Sherlock

I must admit, I don't see the issue here? Am I missing something?

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Hyphen
18 minutes ago, Sherlock said:

I must admit, I don't see the issue here? Am I missing something?

In fairness I don't think it is a huge issue really so I don't think you are! As @Milankovitchwas rightly saying BTP doesn't really exist outside of the main hubs of Edinburgh and Glasgow so really the railway may actually get a better, more consistent service.

I was more curious about the supposed merger of the three forces and what impact this may have, as has been said probably will lead to it speeding up.

Itll be interesting to see how it pans out.

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Sherlock
In fairness I don't think it is a huge issue really so I don't think you are! As [mention=226]Milankovitch[/mention]was rightly saying BTP doesn't really exist outside of the main hubs of Edinburgh and Glasgow so really the railway may actually get a better, more consistent service.
I was more curious about the supposed merger of the three forces and what impact this may have, as has been said probably will lead to it speeding up.
Itll be interesting to see how it pans out.


Ah. Sounds like the usual "But we've always done it this way" initial hype.

Interesting developments.

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ParochialYokal

The merger is clearly being driven by ideology, rather than any practical considerations.

I wonder whether Police Scotland would be able to see the rail industry as their 'customer' in the same way that BTP do? I am not sure that such relationship dynamics are always desirable, but I have less faith the rail policing would remain as ring fenced as it currently is.

For example, a priority for the railway is to mop up one-unders within 90 minutes, which I am not sure that Police Scotland would view with the same importance.

Also, a higher priority might currently be attached to tackling ASB on the railway than on the street, but that may be less of an imperative if resources can be diverted elsewhere.

The sad thing is that rail policing in Scotland will no longer be able to draw upon the wider subject matter expertise of the BTP and the skill set and capability will become diluted.

They should have gone for the 'third way' of making BTP accountable to Hoolyrood and not Westminster. They could have even rebranded it.

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Milankovitch
20 minutes ago, ParochialYokal said:

The merger is clearly being driven by ideology, rather than any practical considerations.

I wonder whether Police Scotland would be able to see the rail industry as their 'customer' in the same way that BTP do? I am not sure that such relationship dynamics are always desirable, but I have less faith the rail policing would remain as ring fenced as it currently is.

There are parallels here with airports. Airport cops are ring fenced at all costs, if they get a custody it is handed to a local unit to deal with so they can remain at the airport. They also backfill airports with divisional staff when required rather than have to hand back money that the airport has paid for policing. Depending on how this is all arranged something similar could happen.

24 minutes ago, ParochialYokal said:

For example, a priority for the railway is to mop up one-unders within 90 minutes, which I am not sure that Police Scotland would view with the same importance.

BTP seem to struggle to get officers to a one under in 90 minutes outside of the central belt. Last one I attended we waited over two hours for a BTP unit to arrive because of the distance they were coming from. 

26 minutes ago, ParochialYokal said:

Also, a higher priority might currently be attached to tackling ASB on the railway than on the street, but that may be less of an imperative if resources can be diverted elsewhere.

They are stretched so thinly outside of the central belt that low level ASB barely gets a look in a lot of the time. It's not hard to see how low level ASB just doesn't get a response from them when they are expected to cover such a vast area with so few officers. We end up going to a lot of railway calls because they just can't get to them.

 

BTP publishes figures for the number of officers based at each station they have a presence and outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow there really is very little in the way of cover. There are 8 BTP officers who cover the entire division I work in and part of the neighbouring one. The division I work in would be the third largest force in E&W by area, I suspect with the extra they have to cover they'd be right up there with the largest forces in E&W. That is their third largest station in Scotland and there are only eight officers based there. At best you'd have four on at a time but with annual leave, court abstractions and so on they struggle to put out a double crewed car a lot of the time.

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Saxon

Politicians are not police officers and have no idea how policing works, i just wish they had a group discussion with BTP and police scotland officers first and then came to a decision. SNP only want the merger as they hate the word British in our name. no officer here at BTP want it and no officer in Police Scotland want it. Absolute disaster in my opinion!

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Hyphen
58 minutes ago, BTP-Saxon said:

Politicians are not police officers and have no idea how policing works, i just wish they had a group discussion with BTP and police scotland officers first and then came to a decision. SNP only want the merger as they hate the word British in our name. no officer here at BTP want it and no officer in Police Scotland want it. Absolute disaster in my opinion!

I agree, there doesn’t seem to have been any joined up thinking or discussion. It seems to be the usual steam roller approach. Police Scotland doesn’t sound overly convincing particularly as time goes by, I think this will just lump in another mess.

The downfall of BTP Scotland is the lack of presence and coverage outside the central area. This has probably made it a little bit easier to push this through.

Overall all that will happen is the cops will be transferred to Police Scotland and railway policing will become on par with the rest of the country which the railway will not be happy with.

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