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BTP devolution to Police Scotland must be scrapped

13 January 2017

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, is demanding the proposed merger between British Transport Police(BTP) and Police Scotland be scrapped because it will seriously endanger cross-border rail safety.

And he's calling on Virgin's West and East Coast mainline rail bosses, Richard Branson and Brian Souter, and Tim O'Toole, Chief Executive of First Group's Transpennine Express, and Chris Burchell Managing Director of Arriva UK who run Cross Country service to do the same.

Cortes also wants the UK's rail bosses to ensure that the proposal to devolve BTP into Police Scotland will be firmly at the top of the agenda at their rail companies joint rail safety committee meeting to be held later this month.

"No-one involved in the rail industry wants this merger. The BTP don't want it, the BTP Federation don't want it, rail unions don't want it and rail company bosses to need to come clean with the public, because they are said not to be in favour of it either.

"UK cross-border rail safety is way too important to be reduced to a devolution issue. Scottish Labour don't want it, Scottish Tories don't want it. The drivers behind it are the SNP First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon her Justice Minister, Michael Matheson and her Transport Minister, Humza Yousef.

"And let's face. it when it comes to justice and transport the SNP's not got a record you'd trust - and you don't have to take just my word for that as all Scotland's rail passengers know that Scotrail is failing after the SNP's decision to sell-off the franchise to Holland's state rail company Abellio. Humza should focus on fixing that and concentrate on bringing it back into Scottish public ownership!

"And after the withering assessment from Audit Scotland, who say Police Scotland will face a funding gap of £188 million by 2020-21 and the worrying warning from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) that "urgent work" is needed at the Scottish Police Authority to improve both financial function and transparency, I'd have thought Minister Matheson would have his sleeves rolled up to deal with those problems rather than meddling with the BTP.

"The BTP is a highly regarded, super-efficient, well-embedded cross-border service which needs absolutely no SNP fixing. It certainly doesn't need merging into the troubled Police Scotland who simply are not fit to take it over.

"I'm surprised that the rail bosses haven't already spoken out against the merger publicly because it really will hit them in their pockets. BTP deal with incidents on the railway very quickly and know how to keep lines open and the transport moving. Regular police have to treat incidents as potential crime scenes and close the network down and cause big delays.

"It is a proposal the transport leaders Sir Branson, Sir Souter, Mr O'Toole CBE and Mr Burchell urgently need to give a lead on. I urge them to join me and my members in their workforce and take action to ensure this damaging proposal is binned before it causes real and lasting damage to rail security and, jeopardises passengers’ lives, on both sides of the Scottish border."

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