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Manuel Cortes calls for Michael Matheson to be sacked over mishandling of BTP/Police Scotland merger

30 September 2018

Speaking exclusively to the Herald on Sunday, TSSA leader Manuel Cortes called for former Justice Secretary Michael Matheson to be sacked from Cabinet for his complete mishandling of the British Transport Police (BTP)/Police Scotland merger.

Said Cortes:

“It's taken three long years for the Scottish Government to finally accept what our members have told it from the outset - that the break up of BTP and its merger with Police Scotland was unnecessary and unfeasible. It continues to be unwanted by anyone connected with our railways in Scotland because it puts passengers and our members at peril. Let's face it, BTP and Police Scotland themselves never wanted it either.

"The U-turn is the right thing to do, it's just a crying shame it's take them so long to make it. The paper circulated at the Joint Programme Board earlier this week represents a significant change of heart away from the entrenched nationalism surrounding the earlier decision by former justice minister Michael Matheson. New in post Justice Minister Humza Yousaf has at least had the decency to review the merger on the basis of the evidence. And now we hope a decision on BTP’s future will be made based on a sound business case and on putting the safety of Scotland's railways first.

"To be honest, Humza deserves praise for having the political courage to force his party to accept that it made a mistake and the will to do something about it.

"But the staff and officers of BTP are owed an apology and they deserve recompense for the unnecessary amount of stress and anxiety forced upon them by Matheson's idiotic policy for the last 3 years. He was all deaf ears to our many pleas to reason. He never once got that safety and crime prevention on our railways is far too important to be treated like a political football.

"It's why we now have deep reservations about his tenure as Transport Secretary. Put simply, nobody in our business trusts the man or has any confidence in him. Humza's decision to overturn the injustice done to transport police staff is an indication of his lack of judgement. And frankly, Matheson should be made to resign for his incompetence. It's inconceivable that he can carry on in the Transport brief.

"Whilst I welcome the Joint Programme Board's latest thinking, make no mistake, this is also an embarrassing climb down for the SNP. If they want us to believe they have integrity when it comes to security and transport policy then they don't just need to sink this dangerous and mindless merger proposal, they need to sack Matheson who has no right to expect trust to be vested in him again.”

Notes to Editors

The Joint Programme Board is chaired by the Department for Transport and Scottish Government and was set up to steer the merger between BTP and
British Transport Police identified three options for devolution of rail policing in Scotland in 2015.

Option 1 – Through administrative means rather than legislation.
Option 2 – In essence, the plan was that the Chief Constable of BTP would engage with the Scottish institutions in much the same way as his counterpart in Police Scotland.
Option 3 – Identified as the most complex route to devolution, it entailed breaking up BTP and absorbing its Scottish operations into Police Scotland.

This is the first time that options other than full integration have been considered.

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