Posted 31st October 2016 | 2 Comments

Scottish rail strikes threat over police plan

RAIL unions are warning of possible industrial action if plans to abolish British Transport Police as a separate force in Scotland go ahead.

The Scottish Government wants to transfer railway policing north of the border to Police Scotland, after this was recommended by the Smith Commission. The Commission was created by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014 in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum, to consider further areas of devolution.

But critics of the idea are becoming more vocal, and they include the RMT, ASLEF and TSSA. There are fears that officers could be moved from railway duties to other police responsibilities, putting the security of passengers at risk, and that a valuable pool of specialist knowledge about railway policing could be diluted and eventually lost.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, who has been in talks with transport minister Humza Yousaf about the proposals, said strikes could follow as a last resort, on the grounds that the health and safety of railway passengers and staff could be endangered.

He said: "We don't see any need for a breakup of British Transport Police. The feeling from our members is that the public needs to be able to rely on a safe transport system and if that safety is diminished then it become a real issue for our union and other unions."

Both ASLEF and the RMT are also opposing the idea and warning that ballots for industrial action could follow.

However, the Scottish Government said: "Specialist railway policing expertise and capacity will be maintained and protected within the broader structure of Police Scotland.

"Devolution of BTP was recommended by the Smith Commission, reached through cross-party agreement. The integration with Police Scotland will enhance railway policing through direct access to the local, specialist and national resources of Police Scotland to build upon the high levels of personal safety and security currently enjoyed by passengers and staff."

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • John Harper, Edinburgh

    Given the major issues with Police Scotland the takeover of BTP will be a real worry for safety and given that a unionised force is being coerced into a non-unionised one it was always going to cause industrial unrest and that many officers will choose to quit rather than join Police Scotland. My guess is that the Scottish Government will try to force its will but face defeat in Parliament (if the Greens have the guts), or we will see a total indefinate shutdown of the railway in Scotland most likely at Christmas or Easter if the talks spin out that long. The best solution is to retain the status quo albeit rebranding BTP as Transport Police Scotland with a longterm plan that it takes over policing ports, airports and highways becoming a specialist in all transport related policing, reducing Police Scotland in size enabling it to address its many problems not least being exceptionally low morale.

  • Thomas Jacobson, London

    Don't worry in this brave new corporate utopia promised by McNulty, we don't need police officers, guards, dispatchers, ticket offices or police. DOO is 100% safer than anything else, ATO is the best system ever invented and totally foolproof, passengers love unstaffed stations and always buy tickets, and route crime never ever happens.

    I am sure "Innovative Solutions Management" and "Change facilitation readiness" can be provided by our "partners at G4S / Serco / Mitie / Capita / A4e and Interserve" instead. Who needs experience when you have zero hour contracts and cheap labour these days? Besides the British fare payer loves to subsidise the foreign state railways of other countries. Makes up for colonialism you see...