Police Scotland unable to recommend date for BTP merger

28 August 2018, 17:15 | Updated: 28 August 2018, 17:18

British Transport Police

Police Scotland was unable to recommend a date at which a merger with the British Transport Police (BTP) could take place, it has emerged.

In a paper to be presented to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) board meeting on Thursday the single force said there was "insufficiently detailed evidence" on which to reach a conclusion on a revised "go live" date.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced on Monday the merger between BTP and Scotland's national police force had been placed on hold.

He said ministers remained committed to full integration but that "interim arrangements" were needed to speed along the devolution of railway policing.

Police Scotland was asked to undertake a risk-based assessment to look at a new "go live" date after the integration - due to take place in spring 2019 - was delayed indefinitely earlier this year.

The force's paper to the SPA board meeting states: "We are not currently satisfied that the substantive matters raised by SPA members or associated issues of concern to Police Scotland have been adequately resolved or that there is sufficient clarity around the future timeline or process to address these issues.

"In light of that, Police Scotland are not currently in a position to recommend any revised 'go-live' date."

A further paper from SPA interim chief officer Kenneth Hogg said there was "insufficient clarity" on a number of issues relating to the merger.

These include the likely future costs of running railway policing as part of Police Scotland and a full understanding of assets and liabilities which would be inherited by the SPA and Police Scotland.

On the IT implications of the change, the report added: "In essence, the current BTP and Police Scotland systems are incompatible, and Police Scotland's wider ICT transformation which could increase compatibility is only at the planning stages with delivery of the improved system being several years away."

The Scottish Government has said it will now bring together Police Scotland, the SPA, the British Transport Police and other partners to re-examine the available options for the devolution of railway policing.

Holyrood's Justice Committee has written to the Justice Secretary asking him to appear before them to provide more detail.

Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: "This latest announcement raises many questions, both for the future of railway policing in Scotland and about the delayed integration process.

"Devolving railway policing has clearly not been straightforward.

"For the sake of transparency and clarity, it's imperative the Justice Committee has the opportunity to question the Justice Secretary soon after Holyrood's return."