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Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill

Overview

The Bill integrates British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland with Police Scotland. 

BTP polices the railways in Scotland under an agreement with railway operators. 

The Bill gives railway policing powers to:

  • Police Scotland (the Police Service of Scotland)
  • the Scottish Police Authority

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is a public body of the Scottish Government. They hold Police Scotland, the national police service, to account. 

The aim of the Bill is to give Police Scotland the sole authority to police the railways in Scotland.  

You can find out more in the Explanatory Notes document that explains the bill.

Why the Bill was created

British Transport Police will not be responsible for policing railways in Scotland. This means that Police Scotland will take over this responsibility. 

There are certain things that the Scottish Parliament has the power to make decisions on. These are known as ‘devolved matters’. Railway policing will be a devolved matter 

You can find out more in the Policy Memorandum document that explains the bill.

The Bill at different stages

'Bills' are proposed laws. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) discuss them to decide if they should become law.

Here are the different versions of the Bill:

The Bill as introduced

Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill as introduced

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and the related documents to the Scottish Parliament.

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Stage 2 – Changes to detail

Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill with Stage 2 changes

Second version of the proposed law with changes from Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs).

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Stage 3 – Final changes and vote

Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill as passed

Third version of the proposed law that the MSPs voted on and passed.

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Where do laws come from?

The Scottish Parliament can make decisions about many things like:

  • agriculture and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • justice and policing
  • local government
  • some aspects of tax and social security

These are 'devolved matters'.

Laws that are decided by the Scottish Parliament come from:

Government Bills

These are Bills that have been introduced by the Scottish Government. They are sometimes called 'Executive Bills'.

Most of the laws that the Scottish Parliament looks at are Government Bills.

Hybrid Bills

These Bills are suggested by the Scottish Government.

As well as having an impact on a general law, they could also have an impact on organisations' or the public's private interests.

The first Hybrid Bill was the Forth Crossing Bill.

Members' Bill

These are Bills suggested by MSPs. Every MSP can try to get 2 laws passed in the time between elections. This 5-year period is called a 'parliamentary session'.

To do this, they need other MSPs from different political parties to support their Bills.

Committee Bills

These are Bills suggested by a group of MSPs called a committee.

These are Public Bills because they will change general law.

Private Bills

These are Bills suggested by a person, group or company. They usually:

  • add to an existing law
  • change an existing law

A committee would be created to work on a Private Bill.

Becomes Law

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill passed by a vote of 68 for, 53 against and 0 abstentions. The Bill became law on 1 August 2017.

Introduced

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and related documents to the Parliament.

Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill as introduced

Related information from the Scottish Government on the Bill

Scottish Parliament research on the Bill 

Stage 1 - General principles

Committees examine the Bill. Then MSPs vote on whether it should continue to Stage 2.

Have your say

The deadline for sharing your views on this Bill has passed. Read the views that were given.

Committees involved in this Bill

Who examined the Bill

Each Bill is examined by a 'lead committee'. This is the committee that has the subject of the Bill in its remit.

It looks at everything to do with the Bill.

Other committees may look at certain parts of the Bill if it covers subjects they deal with.

Who spoke to the lead committee about the Bill

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

First meeting transcript

The Convener

Item 4 is our first session of evidence taking on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. I refer members to paper 2, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 3, which is a Scottish Parliament information centre briefing.

I welcome today’s witnesses, who are Charlotte Vitty, interim chief executive of the British Transport Police Authority; Chief Constable Paul Crowther, British Transport Police in the United Kingdom; Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, operations and justice, Police Scotland; and John Foley, chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority.

I thank the panellists for their written submissions. We will go straight to questions.

Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Mr Foley, how important to the Scottish Police Authority is integration of the BTP and Police Scotland?

John Foley (Scottish Police Authority)

Integration is very important for the SPA. We have engaged and participated with colleagues on it since the outset.

Douglas Ross

On the subject of engagement and participation, why did the SPA not respond to the committee’s call for evidence?

John Foley

The SPA felt that it was more appropriate to give oral evidence to the committee.

Douglas Ross

Is it the SPA’s standard practice not to submit written evidence prior to giving oral evidence?

John Foley

No—there is no standard practice.

Douglas Ross

So this would be an exception.

John Foley

It is not an exception. The SPA views each—

Douglas Ross

Has the SPA ever only given oral evidence in the past?

John Foley

The SPA has done that in the past.

The Convener

I ask the member to let the witness reply in full.

Douglas Ross

I am trying to get replies.

John Foley

The SPA views each matter separately. In this case, it took the view that it is participating heavily in the implementation plan, which is governed by the programme board of which the SPA is a participating member. I sit on that programme board; that is how we govern this matter at the moment.

Douglas Ross

ACC Higgins, do you believe that your submission to the call to evidence was fair and impartial?

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins (Police Scotland)

Yes.

Douglas Ross

Your submission says that the move is “sensible” and that there will be “no detrimental impact”. Does that suggest that you already support the plans to integrate the BTP with Police Scotland?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

It is a sensible move. The full submission says that Police Scotland currently looks after the entire transport network in Scotland—the sea ports, the airports and the road network—so it is sensible for it to look after the rail network as well.

Douglas Ross

You told the committee on 1 November that you would take no decision prior to Parliament making its view clear. Parliament has not done that. Do you agree that your submission makes it abundantly clear that Police Scotland supports the move without waiting for Parliament to take its decision?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Police Scotland would never be so presumptuous as to take a decision on a matter that is still to go through the parliamentary process. The written submission asked for my view on whether Police Scotland could police the rail network efficiently and effectively; my response reflects that.

Douglas Ross

The SPA has suggested—not through written evidence—that any concerns over the integration of the BTP in Scotland and Police Scotland will be offset by the experience of merging eight police forces. Mr Foley, what are the top three issues from that merger that will offset concerns about the possible implications of merging the BTP and Police Scotland?

John Foley

The first concerns would relate to people matters, which it is important to address. The British Transport Police Federation has raised concerns about clarity in relation to pensions and terms and conditions. That view is absolutely acceptable, and we support it. One of the workstreams that are governed by the programme board is looking at that issue. We are awaiting clarification from the Scottish Public Pensions Agency, which is due to give an update at a meeting at the end of the month. The logistics are very important, and we need to make sure that we get those right. Also—this is not associated with the merger of the eight forces—we will need to sit down with the railway organisations and form a relationship with them.

Douglas Ross

Sorry, but my question was quite specific. I asked you to give some reassurance to the committee, members of the Scottish Parliament and people watching this meeting who have concerns about the merger of the BTP with Police Scotland. You have said that those concerns are valid but that you have had the experience of merging eight police forces and two other bodies into a single police force. However, I am asking for cast-iron examples of how you will offset those concerns based on that experience. You might believe that that merger has been a success, but others believe that it has had failures and is still having failures and difficulties. They therefore have concerns about the integration of Police Scotland with another body.

John Foley

We are extremely confident that we will deliver the merger successfully. My view and that of the Scottish Police Authority is that we successfully delivered the merger of the eight forces. I accept your point that other people might have a different view, but that is my view. We have experience of exercises like the proposed merger and I am absolutely confident that we will be able to work with partners, including the Scottish Government, the British Transport Police, the British Transport Police Authority and Transport Scotland, to deliver.

The Convener

ACC Higgins, do you want to come in on that?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes. Having referred to my written submission, I want to clarify my answer to the question that Mr Ross asked me. The committee asked us to assess the impact that integration would have, and it implied that we had to look into the future and say how Police Scotland would cope with the merger after it had taken place. My answer therefore reflected the question’s intent and did not necessarily support a process that has still to go through the parliamentary process.

Douglas Ross

It is interesting that your evidence has changed within five minutes, having allowed yourself to—

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

No, I do not think that it has, sir. I do not accept that at all.

Douglas Ross

I believe that your first answer was that your written submission—well, we will not go into that.

Before I move on to their British Transport Police colleagues, I would like to hear the response of both ACC Higgins and Mr Foley to what DCC Hanstock said to the Transport Committee in Westminster about merging the BTP into Police Scotland. DCC Hanstock said:

“We have not been able to identify any operational or economic benefits.”

Do you agree with that view?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

That is Mr Hanstock’s view, and I respect his opinion and I respect him as a professional police officer. However, the reality is that Police Scotland is the second-largest force in the United Kingdom, with some 17,000 officers and assets that are simply not available to the British Transport Police D division. Although at present we will deploy those assets on request, they will be routinely deployed should integration take place. That will lead to greater effectiveness and efficiency and, in my view, a greater ability to deploy more resource to locations that currently do not receive them. That is my view but, as I said, I respect Mr Hanstock as a police officer and I respect his professional opinion.

John Foley

Like ACC Higgins, I respect Mr Hanstock’s view. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on operational policing matters, which I believe are reserved to police officers, and I am not a police officer. On the economics involved, I have seen nothing to date to suggest that there would be a detriment but, clearly, we are still working through that aspect of the proposed merger, so I cannot comment in full on it.

Douglas Ross

Chief Constable Crowther, are assets available to D division at the moment that are not and would not be available to Police Scotland?

09:45  



Chief Constable Crowther (British Transport Police)

Police Scotland has the full range of specialist capabilities available to it, as we would expect any police force to have. The point that we have consistently made in evidence is that it is the network-wide approach to policing that is probably the most difficult element to replicate under the proposals for merger. In terms of operational capabilities, Police Scotland has everything that it needs; the issue is more to do with the network-wide assessment of need and the cross-border policing elements, which are more of a tactical manifestation of the assets that are available.

Douglas Ross

Is that why, at paragraph 2.3 in your evidence, you say that

“BTP’s analysis reveals that offences involving cable theft take on average 33% longer to manage”

and

“fatal incidents can take ... 50% longer”

with non-specialist policing?

Chief Constable Crowther

Yes. That data emanates from research that we did in, I believe, 2011 that looked at a range of incidents that were attended by geographic forces. In our experience, cable thefts or similar incidents that are attended by non-BTP resources typically take one third longer if dealt with by a geographic force. In the case of fatalities, incidents can take 50 per cent longer and, in the case of security-related incidents such as an unattended item or a threat, typically, a geographic force will err towards closure of the station rather than a risk-based approach. That research was not specifically on Scotland but was UK-wide.

The Convener

Can you wind up this line of questioning, Mr Ross, because I want to bring in other members? Fulton MacGregor has a supplementary.

Douglas Ross

Okay. I have a final question, which is for Mrs Vitty. It is fair to say that Mr Foley was not able to give any concrete examples of how he will offset any of the concerns about the merger, despite the SPA’s experience of merging eight police forces. However, Mrs Vitty states clearly in her evidence that the proposal is not the same as merging eight police forces but is quite different. Will you expand on that for the committee?

Charlotte Vitty (British Transport Police Authority)

Absolutely. The chief constable alluded to the fact that we are a specialist police force and we have different capabilities from the Home Office forces, certainly in relation to our approach to the railway. That alone makes us unique in comparison with the Home Office forces. How we approach our strategy and how we integrate and operate with the rail companies are strong qualities of ours, and we get a lot of value from that close relationship.

Douglas Ross

So the reassurances from Police Scotland do not necessarily mitigate all your concerns, because you see the mergers to establish Police Scotland and the merger to bring the BTP into Police Scotland as being distinct and separate.

Charlotte Vitty

As part of the programme board, we are absolutely putting forward our approach to our business, because we think that, to make this a success, it is vital that the Scottish Police Authority understands our approach, so that it can potentially mirror and align with it.

The Convener

We have three supplementary questions. I ask members to be brief. If your question is too long and I think that you are wandering off, I will stop you.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

It is a very brief supplementary, convener. Is it the understanding of the panel members, as it is mine, that all political parties agreed to this devolution through the Smith commission? A brief answer will do.

Chief Constable Crowther

I totally accept that the Smith commission recommendations, as taken forward in the Scotland Act 2016, bring about the devolution of the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland—there is no doubt about that and we totally support it. The subject of this debate is the means by which that is done. The British Transport Police will support whatever Parliament’s decision is to make that happen.

The Convener

Obviously, there was a choice of legislative or administrative approaches, or a mix of both.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning. Thank you for your evidence.

I have a quick supplementary for Mr Crowther. You have referred to the evidence on the time that it takes the police to attend an incident if it is not BTP officers who attend. Would the merger provide an opportunity for that better experience to happen more widely? I understand that the BTP has an excellent record, particularly on dealing with fatalities. I represent the Highlands and Islands, which is a vast tract of land. It would be inappropriate to discuss the resources that you have in that area, but the reality is that Mr Higgins’s officers attend in the overwhelming majority of instances.

Chief Constable Crowther

The approach that we take to dealing with incidents is steeped in what I call the transport policing ethos. There is something substantially different about transport policing from geographic policing because it requires a comprehensive understanding of the impact of how the organisation fulfils its statutory functions. Our approach has been embedded in the organisation over decades of transport policing. Transport policing is our single focus and, therefore, our expertise.

That ethos can be shared, and there is no doubt that, at the point of merger, the people who would transfer into Police Scotland would have it. The challenge is how we maintain that ethos and continue it beyond the first year. The BTP turnover figures, including the figures for people who will be approaching retirement age around the proposed merger date, show an interesting and significant outflow of expertise and transport policing ethos, which need to be replenished. They are replenished in an organisation that has transport policing as its sole focus, but it would be a real challenge to replenish them in an organisation whose focus is on many other areas of policing.

In the first instance, I have no doubt that the people who would transfer across would continue to adopt the same approach. The question is how that would be sustained in the future. Indeed, although it would be beneficial for those people if they were able to move into other functions in Police Scotland, as is proposed, that might diminish the transport policing ethos. Those are some of the challenges that we have pointed out.

On your second point, it is a fact that, in some areas of Scotland—as in other parts of the United Kingdom—the geographic force is often first at an incident; the BTP then adopts those cases and implements its approach. I gave the example of how it has been demonstrated that geographic forces can take longer to deal with incidents. Our aim is to get there as quickly as we can, implement our transport policing ethos and ensure that the policing of the transport network is done in a way that takes account of the impact on the running of the railway.

John Finnie

The incident could be a considerable distance away from BTP resources and could involve a three or four-hour drive, whereas Police Scotland could have resources along the road.

Chief Constable Crowther

Absolutely.

The Convener

Was there some mention of a specialist fleet of high-performance cars to ensure that the BTP can get the officers who have the expertise to a particularly challenging incident?

Chief Constable Crowther

I am not familiar with that.

The Convener

Right. I was led to believe that, given the geography involved, high-performance vehicles were available to the BTP because the people with the expertise have to cover a large distance. That would address the point that the issue is not necessarily about who is geographically nearest but about ensuring that the person with the right expertise attends.

Chief Constable Crowther

Absolutely. There is no doubt that, throughout the UK, geographic forces often attend in the first instance on behalf of the BTP. Often, we influence situations in the background and speak to control rooms about what the approach should be to such incidents, but I do not for a minute dismiss the support that we get from other forces.

Mairi Evans (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

My question follows on from the point that John Finnie raised. How are British Transport Police officers currently deployed in Scotland? Where are their bases? I represent a rural area, where the geographical force is likely to be the first on scene. Chief Constable Crowther talked about how the BTP ethos could be shared, and I ask Mr Higgins to address the concerns around maintaining that ethos beyond the initial transfer and to say how the service would operate into the future with that ethos continuing to be part of Police Scotland, if the plans go ahead.

Chief Constable Crowther

BTP resources are distributed at a number of locations across Scotland. The major bases are in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and there are also bases in Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and other locations. The resources are concentrated in the major conurbations and cities. We have not said at any stage that much of the day-to-day policing of incidents that happen on the railways cannot be dealt with by Police Scotland. We make a particular point about the challenges that we have identified around specific disruption-related incidents, particularly those involving cross-border services between Scotland and England. It is a particular focus of mine in any transfer of responsibilities that those arrangements, and the policing powers that will exist for officers whichever way they travel across the border, are fully protected so that police can effectively protect the public going forward. I hope that I have answered your question.

Mairi Evans

I understand what you say about having your resources focused on each of the city areas, but what does that look like from day to day? Further up north, outside the central belt, what sort of numbers are we talking about?

Chief Constable Crowther

I do not have the numbers to hand, but I can certainly supply them to the committee. Resources are more thinly spread in the outlying areas, without a doubt.

Mairi Evans

If the BTP were part of Police Scotland and we were able to train more officers, would the first response to incidents be better, as we would have more trained officers available on the ground to deal with transport-related situations?

Chief Constable Crowther

You have hit on one of the issues that we are taking forward through the joint programme board. People who operate in the railway environment have specialist training requirements around track safety and how to operate in a dangerous environment. The challenge is not insurmountable by any means, but a great deal of thought is required on how those officers should be trained and distributed across Police Scotland such that they can respond to and deal effectively with things in a different environment. The challenge is not insurmountable, but it is one that has been highlighted.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Ms Evans has raised a couple of points that I hope I can clarify. The first is about ethos, and Mr Crowther is correct to say that there is a very strong ethos in the BTP, which we would want to retain. However, Police Scotland has the same ethos across the whole force area. It is about keeping people safe and protecting Scotland’s communities, which is the same as the BTP’s desire to protect the travelling public in Scotland. One of Police Scotland’s strengths is not necessarily our single ethos or aim of keeping people safe, but the multiple cultures that we have within the organisation. The culture of policing in Mr Finnie’s area, in the Highlands and Islands, is completely different from the culture of policing in Glasgow city centre or Edinburgh city centre, and the culture in my firearms unit will be different from the culture of our community safety officers. The diversity of cultures within policing is a strength, because it reflects the communities that we serve right across a third of the UK land mass.

10:00  



We will be embracing what is clearly excellent good practice within the BTP and unashamedly squeezing it in relation to how fatalities and crimes on the line are dealt with. There is no doubt that the BTP can have the line opened up again within 90 minutes; there has to be some learning from that. It is not about bringing the BTP into Police Scotland and throwing out everything that it has done over the past couple of hundred years—that would be foolish.

Let me give some assurance around that. When the forces merged to form Police Scotland, the smallest force in the UK was Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, which had the best process for dealing with licensing inquiries. Although that is not my area of responsibility, I understand that the processes that were used in Dumfries and Galloway have now been rolled out right across the nation. That is evidence that we look to see where the best practice is taking place, and we roll it out.

On training, should the will of Parliament be to pass the bill, we will run an upskilling programme for existing officers; in addition, we will extend the initial probationary period for every new recruit to Police Scotland from 11 weeks to 13 or 14 weeks, to incorporate the additional training that current BTP students studying at the police college at Tulliallan receive once they have passed their Scottish training. It is correct that, post 2019, every Police Scotland officer will be trained in policing the railways.

I am not making light of the task and how it would be achieved. We would rely heavily on the BTP to support us in delivering that training and making sure that it was fit for purpose. However, that would be our plan, and ultimately it would mean that pretty much every officer in Scotland would have some knowledge of how to police the railways. A great many officers, over and above those who are deployed full time within the transport environment, will have specific and specialist knowledge.

The Convener

I do not want to rain on your parade, Mr Higgins, but when we visited Dumfries and Galloway as part of seeing how Police Scotland was operating, the main complaint was that the responses to local issues that had already been developed and were working very well were being overwhelmed by what was seen as Strathclyde Police writ large. I have no doubt that the objective was as you just said, but we are, perhaps, some distance away from actually achieving it. That is a fundamental point when we are looking at how we can integrate the BTP into Police Scotland.

We move on to a question from Stewart Stevenson.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

For completeness, I state that I have a close family member who is a constable in Police Scotland; indeed, my wife’s family is full of policemen, north and south of the border.

I want to go into the issue of specialisms, perhaps with the two chief constables in particular. First, I ask Chief Constable Crowther whether there are specialisms within the BTP—within the Great Britain network.

Chief Constable Crowther

Absolutely, yes. Within the BTP we have the full range of specialisms that would be expected in any police force—counterterrorism, intelligence, firearms, safeguarding and just about everything that would be expected in an organisation that polices a transient population. There were 3.2 billion passenger journeys last year, which is an interesting statistic when you think about how to engage with those people and how to deal with that influx, and the threat that perhaps surrounds the crowded places that go with that number of people. A range of specialisms, particularly in relation to dealing with fatalities and suicide prevention, has been developed specifically for our environment.

Stewart Stevenson

It is a natural and necessary part of any police service to develop specialisms to protect people and to make sure that it delivers on the particular requirements that it has to undertake. In transport I guess that intelligence will be one of the more important ones.

Chief Constable Crowther

Yes. I imagine that, in the same way that Police Scotland develops its own structures and processes to deal with the different elements of communities within Scotland that Mr Higgins referred to, we have to develop specific structures within our organisation. That allows us to integrate and engage with the 43 police forces in England and Wales, Police Scotland and local authorities, and with the associated structures, including the intelligence-sharing networks that take account of travelling criminals and the issues that go with the transient nature of the population.

Stewart Stevenson

Turning to Assistant Chief Constable Higgins, I would be interested to know roughly how many specialisms there are in Police Scotland. You referred to firearms. One area that has benefited from the merger of police forces in Scotland is wildlife crime—it used to be dealt with by Tayside Police but is now dealt with Scotland-wide. There are also specialist dog and traffic units—and those are only the ones that I can think of. Presumably, Police Scotland, like the British Transport Police, is well used to having protected resources for particular specialisms, to develop and nurture them and train people in them. Is that a correct characterisation of Police Scotland?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes. I would say that, in UK terms, we are probably one of the most well-equipped forces, given not just the number of specialisms that we have but the number of people who are trained in those specialisms. We have specialisms that other forces in the wider UK do not have. For example, we are one of the few remaining forces in the UK that have a mounted section and a dive and marine unit, although those specialisms are not relevant to today’s debate. We invest heavily in specialisms to make sure that we can deal with any eventuality.

Stewart Stevenson

There are nearly 70 ferry services that operate in Scotland. Are the ones that are within your remit already seen as an important part of Scotland’s transport infrastructure?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes. We have the border policing command and look after both the airports and the sea ports. We have specialist officers deployed to all those locations.

Stewart Stevenson

Does having specialist units permit the development of a particular and specific ethos in each of those units? I would imagine that a firearms officer has a particular approach to the way that he or she may do their job that is quite particular to that unit. The same may be true of other units, just as it may be true of railway policing, if Police Scotland becomes responsible for that in the future.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

To go back to an earlier answer, there are different cultures across the policing network in Scotland. They reflect local circumstances but also the duties that the officers are carrying out. For example, firearms officers are very precise; there is no room for manoeuvre and no room for mistake. Community policing is far more flexible, fluid and involved with the community. Those two areas have two different cultures, which is necessary so that the officers can do their jobs. However, the overarching ethos is around public safety—it is about keeping the communities of Scotland safe.

For me, one size does not fit all. We have to react to local circumstances in the operating environment. I very much respect the environment that the British Transport Police officers currently operate in. We would not want to lose that aspect.

Stewart Stevenson

Intelligence, to take just one transport issue, is an important area. Transport in general—in Scotland, as elsewhere—has been the subject of terrorist attack. Public order is at the other end of the spectrum of difficulties. Where intelligence is concerned, I take it that if policing the railways is brought within your remit, the number of communications that the central intelligence services have to have will reduce, and there might be a wider view of the intelligence situation, which could benefit Scotland. It is up to Mr Foley, his team and you to deliver on that opportunity, but it is there to be delivered on.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Certainly. As I have said, outwith the Metropolitan Police, Police Scotland is the largest force in the UK. As such, we have a massive responsibility to support the UK counterterrorist network, and we are a key and pivotal player in it.

For example, we have a number of partner agencies from both law enforcement and wider Government agencies at our state-of-the-art crime campus at Gartcosh. We have direct linkage into real-time intelligence with agencies across the country and down in London. We feed back into the process as well. For example, our counterterrorist police operations room could run an operation in any part of the UK. It is one of a limited number of such facilities in the UK.

Stewart Stevenson

So you have the scale to cover those big issues while also protecting smaller areas, such as wildlife crime. How big is the wildlife crime unit?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

We have an assistant chief constable who has portfolio responsibility for that. Coverage depends on which part of the country you are talking about. For example, in Mr Finnie’s area we have a full-time officer. However, we have at least one single point of contact officer in each of our 13 local policing divisions who has that subject matter expertise.

Stewart Stevenson

So on the question of integrating transport police into the operation, we have an example of a very small unit that is nonetheless able to operate within the very large unit that is Police Scotland and which has access to all Police Scotland’s resources. Without talking too much about the detail, we have in that an example of how things can be done.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes. We have a number of small units that operate nationally across the entire force, such as our public protection officers and our domestic abuse teams, which are small in number but high in impact. They are located in every geographical area in the force.

The Convener

Stewart Stevenson mentioned terrorism. The Gartcosh unit is state of the art. Does liaison work well under the current arrangement with the BTP?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

The answer is yes. We have run a number of operations with the BTP over the years, whether they be football or crime related. There has never been any problem with that. What tends to happen is that the BTP will put an officer in our events room or control room and they will be the SPOC, so that there is real-time live interaction. That has never been an operational challenge at all; it has worked well.

The Convener

I suppose that the question then is: why mess with that? Why change the arrangement when it is operating well and when this is such an important area UK-wide?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

That is a matter for Parliament to determine. We are saying that, should Parliament determine that such an approach is to be taken, these will be the arrangements. At our intelligence cells in Gartcosh, we have access to live real-time information, which has to be relayed out of Gartcosh to the BTP or other partners that are not represented at the crime campus. In the future, if BTP Scotland were to be part of the wider Police Scotland, there would be no need for that relay; the information would be put directly to the point where it was required.

Chief Constable Crowther

That is a really interesting element of the discussion. There is a risk of falling into a bit of a trap of looking at the issue from a geographic policing perspective. Police Scotland has first-class counterterrorism capabilities and works really closely with us, other forces and the security services and so on. We are talking about the challenge of assessing the terrorist threat across the network—for example, for train services that start in Scotland and finish in England or vice versa—and about how decisions are made on threat and risk in relation to matters that could be in one or other of the jurisdictions but which could have a significant impact elsewhere, depending on what decision is made.

One of the significant challenges on which we will be working closely with Police Scotland is being really clear about decision making. If, for example, there is a bomb threat or a risk to a line of route, who will be the decision maker for the process? Knowing that will ensure that there is no doubt about where the decision has been made and that there is a proper assessment of the decision’s implications along the route of the particular trains. That is the nub of the issue—it is about having a network-wide perspective rather than being about the specific and skilful set of capabilities in Police Scotland.

10:15  



John Finnie

As you are responsible at the moment for trains that run through several police jurisdictions, would it be wrong to suggest that there is no set of circumstances in relation to areas of responsibility that has not already been encountered?

Chief Constable Crowther

At the moment, we are responsible for the trains on the rail network that runs across England, Wales and Scotland, and the issues that I am referring to tend not to occur, because it is us who make the decisions. For example, if there was a bomb threat on the rail network, we—not the geographic force—would make the decision.

John Finnie

You would make the decision in conjunction with the geographic force, because the threat would have implications outwith the rail network.

Chief Constable Crowther

Indeed. We would liaise particularly closely with the Metropolitan Police counterterrorism command, the security services and the geographic force on what might underpin the threat or any background information. Ultimately, however, the decision is made by us.

John Finnie

I understand people’s different perspectives, but it would be wrong to suggest that there might be a grey area on such an important matter as terrorism. Demarcations must exist already. You talk about the relationship between the geographic force, yourselves and the UK security services.

Chief Constable Crowther

I am highlighting the fact that the proposals would add another layer of complexity, which would not be insurmountable but would become a really important element of the planning for the proposed move, because it would be different from the current structures. There is currently no break in decision making, and we need to ensure that the added complexity would not add risk to the process. It would not be insurmountable, but I highlight it as a key area that we must focus on.

John Finnie

Equally, it could be argued that it is complex to have three players in the decision-making process: a UK strategic player, yourselves—I appreciate that you are a UK force at the moment—and the geographic force. Moving from three players to two would take out a layer, which would be beneficial.

Chief Constable Crowther

Sorry—I am not quite with you.

John Finnie

If two organisations are making decisions of such importance, surely that is better than having to satisfy three command structures.

Chief Constable Crowther

I am not sure where the third comes in.

John Finnie

You said that there is liaison at a UK strategic level with the security services.

Chief Constable Crowther

Yes. When bomb threats or other threats come in, we liaise with other agencies that might have intelligence or information that is relevant to the decision. That would be a natural course of action for any police force. A decision is then made by the British Transport Police.

I am saying that we need to work closely to be clear about how such decisions will be made in the future. That is not insurmountable, but it is an important element that we need to work closely with Police Scotland to develop.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

My question is for Charlotte Vitty and Paul Crowther and is about the governance arrangements immediately following the devolution of railway policing. Will the process be seamless? Has everything been planned for that? Will the public be aware of any difference?

Charlotte Vitty

One of the strategic joint programme boards is focused on the governance, and we have two years in which to make sure that we are working together to support the Scottish Police Authority in how we approach our governance and how we work with the travelling public, railway staff and the rail industry. We have come to that board actively and we are highlighting all the risks to ensure that the process is a success, instead of things being found out later. We are approaching that in an open and transparent way, and the board has been invited to our authority to look at how we do our governance.

Chief Constable Crowther

The governance and finance issues are primarily the focus of the BTP authority, but I agree with everything that Charlotte Vitty said.

Rona Mackay

What you are saying is vital, but the reason for my question is that the public want to know that they will be safe on trains and that nothing will change because of a difference in arrangements. Are you confident that that will be the case and that the public will be reassured that everything will be fine?

Charlotte Vitty

We spend an awful lot of time working on our strategy and we do a lot of consultation. I know that Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority have released their 10-year strategy, and it is really important that we start to look at how we can align our strategy with theirs to ensure that the process is seamless.

Rona Mackay

Is that a priority for you?

Charlotte Vitty

It is a priority for us leading up to devolution. However, one second after devolution, the responsibility will lie with the Scottish Police Authority, and we will support that.

Rona Mackay

I will widen the question to the Scottish Police Authority.

John Foley

We recently published the policing 2026 strategy, as you are aware. We have introduced a policing committee in the authority, which is welcome and which I have promoted for a number of years. Should the bill be passed by Parliament, the governance of the transport police will form part of the policing committee. The committee is chaired by George Graham, who is a former chief constable and a former HM chief inspector of constabulary for Scotland, so it is well chaired by a person who knows policing, which is a positive. I believe that the public can take assurance from the proposals that we have in place for governance.

Rona Mackay

Have discussions with rail operators begun? Have they raised any concerns about the transitional period and how it will operate?

John Foley

We have a meeting with rail operators and the transport secretary tomorrow, and that will be the first time that I have met representatives of the rail authorities. I hope that one of the outcomes of the meeting will be a plan to get me and others into a room with the railway people to discuss matters of importance. The BTPA will have met—and will meet on an on-going basis—the railway people.

Charlotte Vitty

I sit on the Rail Delivery Group’s policing and security board, which we report to regularly. The matter has been on the board’s agenda for quite some time, and it is vital for us that it understands how we will support the process until devolution, as well as the safeguarding and support post-devolution with the remaining England and Wales functions.

Mary Fee

I have a brief follow-up question to John Finnie’s questions. Can Mr Higgins and Mr Crowther give me examples of how the BTP and Police Scotland currently collaborate? How do you speak to each other and collaborate if there is an incident on the line?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

There are two types of collaboration. The first is for a pre-planned event. In the past year, there have been 11 football matches to which travelling supporters from England or Scotland have journeyed. We have deployed Police Scotland officers down to England in support of the host force, and English officers have come up here. The rail network has been critical to that.

We have planning arrangements for the old firm game this Sunday, for example, which fans from both sets of supporters will use the rail network for. In our events room on Sunday, a British Transport Police officer will provide a single point of contact at the heart of the event control, to ensure that the joint operation works seamlessly.

For a spontaneous event, contact tends to be from our control centre to Birmingham to say that we have come across an incident and to ask BTP officers to attend and assist. Vice versa, British Transport Police officers contact us through their command centre to ask us to assist, which might be until BTP officers get there or might involve assisting BTP officers on the scene. That is fairly straightforward.

Chief Constable Crowther

I support everything that Mr Higgins said. The difference in the future is that the officers who bring football supporters, for example, to and from Scotland will be a mixture of British Transport Police officers from England and Wales and Police Scotland officers. One of my key aims is to understand the legislative framework that will provide the powers to those officers, whichever way they are going, to ensure that they are fully fledged constables who can carry out their duties wherever they might be on the journey.

Existing legislative arrangements enable a constable to arrest someone in any part of the UK, but there are particular issues to consider, in that officers who are on board trains escorting supporters—to continue to use that example—will find themselves between England and Scotland and sometimes will not know precisely where they are, if they have passed the last station in England on the way to Scotland or vice versa. I am keen to ensure that there is no ambiguity about the powers that people have, the legislation under which they act and the laws that they enforce during that process.

The issue goes beyond the existing arrangements for cross-border jurisdictions. A good example is the way in which we police the Channel tunnel. There are specific protocols in place that make very clear, at the point when an officer does not know whether they are in England or France, who can do what and what jurisdiction they are in. I am keen to ensure that the legislative arrangements for our cross-border policing are as clear as they are for when we police into France.

Mary Fee

Have you been given an indication that the BTP will have the opportunity to be fully involved in the process if integration goes ahead?

Chief Constable Crowther

I am assured that the jurisdictional arrangements can be dealt with through an order under section 104 or section 90 of the Scotland Act 1998. I am sure that I will be involved in that. I will undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that we learn the lessons from other jurisdictions where we police across borders.

Mary Fee

Can Mr Higgins confirm that that will be the case?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes—certainly. As Mr Crowther said, there are existing legislative arrangements. For example, Police Scotland deployed several hundred officers to support the G20 conference in—I think—Cardiff and the G8 conference in Northern Ireland, and they were allowed to operate as officers of the law in those jurisdictions.

Mr Crowther was correct to say that, when an officer is on a train, he might not know which part of the country he is in, so it is vital that the cross-border legislation is all-encompassing. We are content that we are fully aware of and engaged in discussions on the matter.

Mary Fee

Was consideration given to integration when the policing 2026 strategy was drawn up?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

The short answer is yes, but I will expand it ever so slightly. The 2026 strategy is a consultation document; it has not been finalised. I had a chat with Malcolm Graham, the Police Scotland lead on the strategy, and my view is that it would be presumptuous of us to put into a 10-year strategy something about the integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland before the Parliament has had a chance to debate the bill. It would be disrespectful to the Parliament to proceed in that way. However, I assure you that, if integrating the BTP is the will of Parliament, it will form a critical part of our sustainable policing model.

Mary Fee

The British Transport Police and Police Scotland currently have different terms and conditions. Will the BTP staff who transfer over be given a guarantee that they will keep their existing terms and conditions?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

I am going to unashamedly pass that over to the Scottish Police Authority to answer. I have been assured by senior members of the Scottish Government that that is the desire and that they are working furiously to ensure that the current conditions of service of all British Transport Police staff will be honoured on transfer. However, perhaps Mr Foley can give you a more detailed answer.

10:30  



John Foley

As far as I am aware, the Government’s intention, as Mr Higgins said, is to ensure that there is no detriment to officers or staff. Indeed, we have mentioned that in this committee before.

I mentioned at the beginning that we are looking at the pensions situation. The Scottish Public Pensions Agency is to present options towards the end of this month, when we have the next programme board meeting. Clearly, pensions form part of terms and conditions. Overall, we will be looking at that aspect, but my belief is that that is the intention as we move forward.

Mary Fee

Mr Higgins said in a previous answer that people who train at Tulliallan currently do 11 weeks or so. If the BTP is integrated with Police Scotland, that period will be extended to 13 or 14 weeks to include training on transport issues. After 2019, will you have one force with one set of terms and conditions?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Currently, a number of officers within Police Scotland retain legacy terms and conditions. For example, I am one of the dying breed of officers who retain a housing allowance. Officers who joined on or after 1994, I think it is, no longer receive a housing allowance. I joined in 1988, so that is a grandfather right that will stay with me until I retire. I am entirely comfortable that people transferring in and retaining their rights is no different from the current legacy arrangements within Police Scotland.

Mary Fee

It has been reported that some BTP officers do not want to transfer to Police Scotland. Have you done any work to try to establish the number of such officers and how you will deal with that?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

No. Again, although it is right for us, at my level and the chief constable’s level, to be having these discussions, I think that it would be inappropriate to go and engage with the staff on the ground until Parliament decides whether the bill is going to be enacted. Should Parliament decide that the bill is to be enacted, one of our first key tasks will be to sit down with the staff, speak to them, listen to the concerns and give them reassurance.

In many ways, the situation is similar to the legacy arrangements when Police Scotland came together. There was nervousness across the country that, for example, people who were working in Inverness were suddenly going to be transferred to Glasgow. That has simply not materialised. We have said to people within Police Scotland that, if they joined Northern Constabulary and their will is to stay within that geographical area for the remainder of their service, we will respect that.

It is all about early communication at the right time. My assessment, being respectful to the British Transport Police and the parliamentary process, is that now is not the right time for Police Scotland officers to go and engage with current BTP officers.

Mary Fee

Okay. Thank you.

The Convener

Does Mr Crowther want to comment?

Chief Constable Crowther

Yes—thank you. Up with my concern that we ensure as best we can that the public continue to be protected is my concern about the way that my staff are treated in any transfer. During what has been two years or more of quite discombobulating times for them, if I can use that term, they have excelled and shown their professionalism. Performance has increased at a time when we might have expected people to be somewhat dismayed by the uncertainty.

As you are probably aware, there is a particular difference between the proposed transfer and any other. The constables of the British Transport Police are employees rather than Crown servants, and that presents a particularly interesting conundrum with regard to how they are transferred into Police Scotland. A range of options could flow from that. My understanding is that the intent is to transfer them in their current status as employees, and that they will become employees of the Scottish Police Authority. I think that that is one of the favoured options, and I think that people understand it.

Whatever happens with the merger and whatever happens thereafter in terms of synchronising terms and conditions, I am keen that people are treated fairly and with the respect that they deserve. I am encouraged by the Scottish Government’s commitment to the triple-lock approach around terms and conditions, pensions and so on. However, there are some particularly interesting twists and turns with regard to how the transfer can take place. From the staff’s perspective, the earlier that that can be shared with them, the quicker we will be able to work with individuals to help them understand what it means for them in their individual circumstances.

Mary Fee

Can we be quite clear that it is unlikely that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations will apply and that that is one of the reasons why there is such an issue about the proposed merger?

Chief Constable Crowther

Yes. That is my understanding.

The Convener

Why is that the case? Why would TUPE not apply?

Chief Constable Crowther

I am not sure that I understand why it would not apply. However, the legal advice that I have seen is that it would not apply but that the Cabinet Office guidance on staff transfers in the public sector, which uses, in effect, the same principles as TUPE would apply.

The Convener

Can Mr Foley shed any light on why TUPE would not apply?

John Foley

Yes. The principles of the Cabinet Office guidance and those of TUPE are the same, and we have all signed up to that. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the officers and staff are treated as fairly as they would be if they were transferring under the TUPE regulations.

The Convener

Can no one give me a direct answer as to why TUPE would not apply?

John Foley

No, but I can undertake to give you a written response on that, convener, subsequent to the meeting.

The Convener

That would be very helpful. Fulton MacGregor has a supplementary question.

Fulton MacGregor

It concerns an earlier point in Mary Fee’s line of questioning, so I apologise for that. We heard of a good example earlier from Mr Crowther regarding the border arrangements between England and France. I was heartened to hear that that is regarded not as a problem but as a positive factor. I think that we would all like to see something similar from all stakeholders involved when the devolution that we are discussing occurs. Will Police Scotland look at the kind of arrangement that France and England have with regard to the border?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Absolutely. It would be foolish not to look at best practice elsewhere. We share a border with England and our J division and Dumfries and Galloway division in particular have very strong working relationships with, for example, Cumbria Constabulary and Northumbria Police. It is not unusual for one of those forces to be the first responder to provide assistance to Police Scotland. We recently had a robbery at a bank, and a Cumbria police dog van assisted in tracking the suspect. Arrangements are therefore already in place for cross-border policing. To return to Mr MacGregor’s question, the answer is yes: the channel tunnel arrangements interest us greatly.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

Again, I will touch on some earlier themes. First, I was encouraged by Mr Foley’s earlier statement that appropriate implementation and consideration is already taking place. We discussed pensions at a previous evidence session, so it is good to hear that things are moving forward on that.

In returning to the issues of ethos and the specialist nature of the skills that are required in transport policing, I want to address the issue of abstraction, which has been raised at various points. On the economies of scale and the operational capability advantage that the merger of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland will bring, I would like some reassurance and comment around whether officers will be abstracted from other operational parts of Police Scotland and whether any consideration has been given to that in terms of the upskilling that was talked about. We want to build the capacity and maintain the current specialist knowledge, but consideration must also be given to ensuring that resources are allocated appropriately.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

I will address that directly. First, I have gone on the record publicly to say that any British Transport Police officer who migrates into Police Scotland will have their legacy right to police the railways honoured. If they choose to remain within the railway environment for the remainder of their career, that will be respected.

We will sign service level agreements with the rail operators that will require us to provide exactly the level of resource that we have agreed with the rail providers.

As our written submission says, in times of crisis the chief constable reserves the right to deploy officers as he sees fit. However, the reality is that, in a terrorist attack, for example, the resources on the rail network would be strengthened, not diluted, because the rail network is key national infrastructure. If we had a security-based major incident, rather than remove officers from the transport network we would increase their number. Similarly, the upskilling of officers will allow us to deploy them into the rail environments in areas of Scotland where, as the chief constable has mentioned, that possibility does not currently exist. In addition to their routine duties, those officers will have the advantage of being able to operate in that environment.

The crux of the matter is that I give an assurance that the wishes of any British Transport Police officer who transfers into Police Scotland and wishes to remain on the railway network will be honoured and respected.

Ben Macpherson

Thank you. That assurance is hugely welcome, as is the determination to increase the capacity. It was good to hear about that.

The Convener

I want to ask specifically about the various forms of delay, which is an issue that features strongly in the BTP and BTPA submissions. There are particular expectations around the various situations that may cause delays—for example, abandoned luggage and hoax calls. It is estimated that the cost associated with the temporary closing of a station is in the region of £2 million, with an impact on the operator’s finances. Can you talk at length about that?

Chief Constable Crowther

Yes, convener. That goes to the heart of many of the issues that we have talked about today. It is about network-wide decision making, appreciation of the impact of decisions—not just at the location but elsewhere—and an understanding of the transport policing ethos.

As you can imagine, thousands of items are left unattended on the railway every year, each of which is a potential suspect bag and a potential closure. We have network-wide, well-rehearsed approaches to how we deal with such issues and with how we deal with bomb threats. Those might seem like something from the past—they were prevalent during the distant Irish republican campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s—but it is not unusual for us to have to assess 20, 25 or 30 bomb threats a month across the network. That requires a thought process based on risk management that ensures that we act appropriately to those incidents that need to be reacted to and that we act proportionately to what are, in effect, benign incidents. It is about sorting out the real incidents from the ones that might otherwise distract, and how those decisions are made goes to the heart of our approach.

Equally, it is about the way in which we deal with fatalities. I have been in transport policing for 37 years, and in the past—this is going back a long way—we did not have as finely tuned an approach as we have now. In the case of a death, national policing protocols guide policing towards the assumption that there has been a murder and then work downwards, whereas a thoughtful, evidence-based approach allows officers to make judgments about the likely cause of a fatality and determine their response accordingly. That takes lots of training, leadership and support, and I guess that it goes to the heart of what we have identified in all our evidence. We do not doubt Police Scotland’s professionalism; the issue is how that is maintained and delivered while taking into account the network-wide implications.

10:45  



The Convener

In particular, the approach to suicide seems to have been finely tuned over the years, and a programme of suicide prevention is now very much at the heart of the BTP. Could you talk about that?

Chief Constable Crowther

We have developed a specialism around safeguarding people who might harm themselves. I am the national police lead for suicide prevention for the National Police Chiefs Council. We have developed a range of initiatives that identify those who are at risk and implement measures to divert them away from it. We also have initiatives to deal with not just the consequences of the tragic and sad death of an individual, which must be reported to the coroner, but the consequential impacts on the network.

Last year, my officers, rail employees and sometimes members of the public made 1,279 life-saving interventions. A life-saving intervention literally means that someone is restrained from jumping or is removed from the tracks in close proximity to death. Those 1,279 interventions were delivered through a clear focus on safeguarding people who are drawn to the railway for some sad and tragic reasons. That is one of the specialisms that we have developed in the British Transport Police.

The Convener

Will Police Scotland integrate the national rail suicide prevention programme?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Absolutely. We cannot argue with the number of suicide interventions that Mr Crowther mentioned. Police Scotland has a large number of negotiators. Our negotiator cadre is deployed right across the Police Scotland estate, and suicide intervention is one of their key training elements. Where we can grab best practice and implement it, we will absolutely do that, because ultimately it is about saving lives.

Rona Mackay

Is specialist counselling available for British Transport Police officers and will that continue? Is that different from the counselling that I assume other police officers get?

Chief Constable Crowther

That is a really important element of our wellbeing support for our officers, because we ask them to do some very difficult things. Some of my officers individually deal with 12 or 15 railway fatalities per year, each of which is pretty traumatic, as you will understand. A range of other people are also involved.

Part of our ethos in dealing professionally with incidents, supporting the bereaved families and reporting to the coroner is to assess how we can try to keep the railway running while we are doing that. For example, my control room staff will speak directly to the driver of the train to get a first account. As you will imagine, that is quite a traumatic account, and that is another group of individuals who we need to take care of. There are closed-circuit television operators who, as part of our assessment process, are tasked with viewing the CCTV, which is a particularly difficult task and they are of course affected by that.

We have a system that we call TRiM—trauma risk management—which is drawn from the military. Through that scheme, we have trained buddy officers throughout the force who make an initial intervention with people who have been involved in such incidents, and from that we can make referrals on to professional services as required. We currently make the first intervention for around 300 members of staff a month, such is the range and impact of that sort of activity. Clearly, we do that in Scotland as well, and that will be one of the areas of operational practice that we will share with colleagues, because it is a vital part of supporting the staff who do a really difficult job on a day-to-day basis.

Rona Mackay

Just to clarify, will that continue after the devolution of railway policing?

Chief Constable Crowther

It will certainly continue in the BTP and we will share our experiences with Police Scotland. I am pretty certain that it will want to do something similar.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Like Paul Crowther’s organisation, Police Scotland currently has a TRiM process and an employee assistance programme.

Policing is not a very pleasant occupation—there is no doubt about that. We have road fatalities and sudden deaths of infant children, and some officers spend their days in a darkened room viewing the most horrific offensive actions against children, so we have to have something in place to support officers psychologically and emotionally. Like the BTP, Police Scotland has a very robust employee assistance programme and a TRiM process.

Mary Fee

Paul Crowther and Charlotte Vitty might be the best people to answer this question. Was any model other than complete integration put forward for consideration? Is there another model that you think would work?

Chief Constable Crowther

We made a number of submissions to the Scottish Government during the discussions on the bill. As I said, we completely understand and support the principle of devolution. There are different means of achieving that. We have given professional advice on what the options might be but, as you would expect, we will work with whatever option is taken forward, to deliver it in the interests of the public. Perhaps I will stop there.

Charlotte Vitty

It is vital that, throughout the process leading up to devolution day, we are able to articulate our thoughts to and communicate with the SPA and Police Scotland, as it is a complex process. That communication should not be seen as anything more than work to ensure that it is a success. We must be able to align our operations on D-day, so it is key that we continue to communicate.

The Convener

You have to work in partnership with the railway operators and, as I mentioned, minimising delays without compromising safety is paramount. This question is for Mr Higgins. If there is an accident of some kind on the motorway, is any cognisance taken of the effects of the delay when you consider how to handle it as effectively as possible? On top of the devastation of the accident itself, when traffic is tailed back, the economic impact is huge. Mitigating any delays is in the DNA of the British Transport Police, if you like, because if it does not do that, the whole railway system grinds to a halt. Will you comment on that?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

I am acutely aware of that. The latest figure that I was given was that, if a major road such as the M8, the M77 or the M90 is shut down, it can cost the Scottish economy a quarter of a million pounds every 30 minutes. My road policing officers deploy on the basis that they need to get the road open as soon as possible. However, if there is an incident involving six or seven people in three cars, and two people are still trapped and need to be cut out and rescued, reopening the road is not as straightforward as we would like it to be.

Often, the delay in reopening a road is caused not by the investigation but by the need to clear the road and repair the crash barrier, for example. A road is not safe to be driven on until the damage that has been caused to its infrastructure is repaired. Various factors combine to make a fatal road accident, and invariably the road will be closed for longer than a railway line will if an accident occurs on that.

The short answer is yes. We are acutely aware of the economic impact, but we have a duty to ensure that the cause of the accident is properly investigated and reported to the procurator fiscal so that we can give the family of the deceased some assurance that that has happened.

Douglas Ross

ACC Higgins and John Foley have made it clear that they are looking ahead based on the Parliament’s decision, whatever that will be, and that they are looking at how they would mitigate some of the concerns that have been highlighted. As you are taking an impartial view, will you tell me whether you have identified any potential pitfalls or risks of merging the BTP with Police Scotland?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes, of course. Mr Crowther alluded to—

Douglas Ross

Sorry, I was asking for Police Scotland’s view.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes, and I am going to answer you, Mr Ross. I was going to say that Mr Crowther alluded to the fact that there is a massive turnover of staff in the British Transport Police. There is a risk that, on transfer, that skill base will be diluted, and it is my job to ensure that that does not happen. There is a risk that the terms and conditions might be diluted but, again, we have made it clear that we hope that the Scottish Government will address that. There is also a risk on the financial side. It is necessary to ensure that Police Scotland is properly compensated for taking on the additional responsibility.

Those are all risks that we recognise, but much will be dependent on what the legislation says and what happens after the debate in Parliament.

John Foley

On the potential financial risk, I have officers going down on Friday to work closely with BTPA officers on the cost allocation models, and we will have greater transparency after that. A risk clearly exists in that regard. We do not believe that it is significant, but we will have to look into it further.

Douglas Ross

Are you saying that you agree that those are risks and that you have fed them into the Scottish Government’s consideration?

John Foley

As I mentioned, there is a programme board. Those risks are discussed in detail by that board and actions are taken to mitigate them, be that by the SPA, Police Scotland, the BTP or the BTPA. We work collectively not only with the Scottish Government but with the Westminster Government.

Douglas Ross

I will continue to ask you, Mr Foley, about potential risks. An independent evaluation of Police Scotland and the police and fire reform stated that Police Scotland representatives considered themselves to be in a

“‘consolidating’ and ‘integrating’ phase of the journey”

and that

“real ‘transformation’ of service delivery”

was yet to come. It went on to say:

“The challenges associated with the ‘transformation’ phase are seen as being at least as significant as those already encountered in integrating the services.”

Given that analysis and the uncertainties that remain, is now the right time for another element to be brought on board and for the BTP to be integrated into Police Scotland?

John Foley

As we discussed earlier, we are talking about an integration that is two years away. If that is the task that Parliament sets us, we can achieve it within that timeframe. It would be inappropriate for me to comment from an operational point of view because I am not a police officer so, if you do not mind, Mr Ross, perhaps Mr Higgins or Mr Crowther could answer that part of the question.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

I agree with Mr Foley on that. To be frank, two years is a luxury, based on what we had to do to bring Police Scotland together, so I am confident that the transition would occur and that it would be done in collaboration and partnership with the British Transport Police.

Douglas Ross

In your written submission, Mr Higgins, you say:

“Following integration, in the short to medium term, it is the intention of Police Scotland to retain the current specialist skills and knowledge built up by BTP Officers”.

What is the long-term intention?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

The long-term intention is that, as I said, training for policing on the railway network will form part of the initial training of all officers who join Police Scotland. Rather than having a small number of officers with specialist skills, we will have 17,000 officers with the ability to operate in the railway environment and, within that number, a smaller group of officers with the specialist skills in, for example, rail investigation and rail death.

Douglas Ross

Based on that answer and what I read out from your written submission, are you saying that, in the long term, the specialist skills and knowledge that are currently available in the British Transport Police will not be available to Police Scotland?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

No, I have not said that at all. I have no idea why you are even asking me that question.

Douglas Ross

Perhaps I can explain, then, if that is okay.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Please.

Douglas Ross

You make it clear in your submission that

“the short to medium term … intention”

is that you will

“retain the current specialist skills and knowledge built up by BTP Officers”.

However, you go on to say that, in the long term, there will be additional training of all officers for two to three weeks during their course at Tulliallan. Are you honestly saying that officers who come into Police Scotland with an additional two to three weeks of training will have the same expertise, specialist skills and knowledge that current BTP officers have built up?

11:00  



Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

What I am saying quite clearly, Mr Ross, is that I am mainstreaming the training that BTP officers in Scotland currently receive. I am quite sure that, within the BTP specialism, there will be investigative officers who are specifically trained to deal with fatalities on the rail network, just as my crash investigators who go to fatal road accidents are specifically trained. As well as having the general two to three weeks of training, which will allow a greater number of officers to operate on the rail network, we will invest to ensure that the current levels of skill that are available to investigate, for example, fatal rail accidents will continue.

Douglas Ross

What level of investment will there be?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

We will need to see what the demand is. I have some 600 road police officers, who police the road networks. Not every one of them is a crash investigator, but we have enough crash investigators to investigate the fatal road accidents on Scotland’s roads. We will have a number of officers who are able to work on the rail network in the same way that my road police officers work on the road network, and within that team we will have a number of bespoke officers who can take on specialist investigations, just as we have crash investigators who investigate fatal road accidents.

Douglas Ross

Following the launch of the policing 2026 consultation document, it was established—this was not in the document—that up to 400 police officers could be lost. Some of that capacity will be replaced by people who do not want to join Police Scotland; they will have specialisms, such as in information technology, but do not want to be Police Scotland officers. I presume that the majority of Chief Constable Crowther’s officers do not want to be police officers but want a specialism within the British Transport Police. Is there a danger that people who are interested in joining a transport police force will not feel encouraged to join Police Scotland, which would give them only a couple of weeks of extra training, as part of a general training programme to become a police constable? I see that Assistant Chief Constable Higgins is shaking his head, so perhaps we can come back to him after Chief Constable Crowther has spoken.

Chief Constable Crowther

I am not sure that I am qualified to speak about what the future might hold; I think that Assistant Chief Constable Higgins has talked about, and will talk about, Police Scotland’s plans.

What I know about the current people in the British Transport Police is that they specifically joined the BTP. They could have joined a geographic force, but they did not do so, and they are proud to be transport police officers. If they transfer, they will continue to be proud transport police officers and they will continue to deliver a great service.

One of the interesting challenges for me—indeed, it is a challenge that we share with Police Scotland—will be the transition period. We do not yet know what impact there might be on recruitment in that period, when there will be the prospect of transferring into Police Scotland. It might not be a problem or it might be a disincentive to people joining. We simply do not know. We will need to work through that.

In our submission we say that at some stage there might well be a case for our discussing the issue with Police Scotland. If gaps begin to appear, either through challenges with recruitment or existing BTP officers seeking to transfer to the England and Wales part of the BTP, we will need to fill those gaps, because I must continue to deliver policing until such time as it is not my responsibility. There might be circumstances in which we need a conversation about secondees coming to us, under my direction and control, during the transition period.

We do not yet know how things will play out. We have identified the issue and we must plan for it jointly as we go forward.

The Convener

Just to be clear, is it Police Scotland’s intention to have a dedicated transport police unit? Would there be an option for people from the British Transport Police to join that unit and would there be a guarantee that they would not be deployed elsewhere, even if there was pressure on numbers in another part of Police Scotland? At the moment, they work for the British Transport Police, they are on the railways and they have the necessary expertise.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

I will answer that question, and I will address Mr Ross’s points. As I said earlier, I can give an assurance that for any member of the British Transport Police who transfers into Police Scotland, we will respect their right to police the railway environment until they retire, and we will not move them elsewhere unless they volunteer to do so. Would they, on an ad hoc basis, be removed from their station to police the community beat in Cathcart? No, they would not. However, if we had a major incident—heaven forbid—would they be deployed to support policing that? Potentially, yes they would.

Is it our intention to have a bespoke transport unit within Police Scotland? Absolutely. We see it as sitting alongside our road policing unit. They would be two separate entities under that overarching command. We would train every officer, and would give transport officers the two to three weeks’ training that all BTP officers in Scotland currently get in addition to their initial 11 weeks.

The Convener

I understand that, but I think that we are muddying the waters a bit. Although that is a good thing to do, it does not begin to meet the expertise of the trained unit. You have said that your intention is not to deploy to other areas anyone who had transferred from the BTP. If new members join the specialist unit who are already in Police Scotland, would they be deployed routinely if there was the need?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

I do not follow. New members of what?

The Convener

Will there be a distinction between the 284 officers who are currently employed in Scotland by the British Transport Police and officers who might join the unit? I understand that you are saying that, until those current officers choose to retire, they would not be deployed elsewhere. What if other officers join the unit from Police Scotland? Would they be deployed to other duties if that was deemed to be necessary?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

No, they would not, because they would be treated no differently from the road policing unit. They will be a bespoke specialist unit that is dedicated to policing the rail network, and we would have to maintain the service level agreement that we have with the rail providers. I am saying that we will train every officer and every new recruit to have the awareness and ability to operate in the rail environment, but we will maintain a specialist unit of 284 officers—or however many we determine will be appropriate with the rail transport providers—and the officers in that unit will receive additional specialist training to allow them to carry out crash investigations. There will be a strong and clear parallel with how our road policing unit currently operates in policing the road network.

The Convener

That is helpful. There are a number of supplementary questions.

John Finnie

My question is about training. I accept that individuals’ knowledge is time limited, but it certainly was the case that British Transport Police officers undertook exactly the same training as geographic force officers. At the moment, as I understand it, when British Transport Police officers have completed their time at Tulliallan they go off to do another intensive two-week or three-week course. When you talk about additional training, do you mean exactly the same two or three weeks, and is that why you referred to seeking the assistance of the BTP in provision of that training?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes. All officers of the BTP and Police Scotland currently complete the 11-week initial training course at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan. Thereafter, Police Scotland officers go to their divisions and British Transport Police officers have an additional three weeks of training. We want to replicate that three weeks of training at the Scottish Police College, so we will rely heavily on the assistance of the BTP to develop the course so that we can deliver it.

John Finnie

We currently have a cohort of officers who are British Transport Police officers, which you have undertaken to maintain within the railway policing environment, but people will retire or leave for various reasons. It could be argued that you are supplementing that diminishing resource with additional resource.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes, but we have to look ahead—284 officers can get swallowed up very quickly by retirals and transfers. We have to plan for the high turnover that Chief Constable Crowther alluded to. That is not unique to the BTP; there is always high turnover in units of that sort of small number. We have to plan for that reduction and make sure that we have appropriately trained and equipped officers who are able to step in, fill the gaps and take up the roles.

John Finnie

Finally, on deployment of Police Scotland officers and British Transport Police officers, is it the case that there were officers from the previous constituent forces who were not enthusiastic about the move to a single police service in Scotland but who subsequently moved from one end of the country to the other—literally—as a career development choice?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes.

John Finnie

Thank you.

Ben Macpherson

On the back of some of the points that were made earlier, I note in the BTP’s written submission a commitment to work constructively. That will be hugely welcome, should the will of Parliament be to proceed with implementation of this devolution.

Charlotte Vitty made a statement about wanting to highlight risks in good faith in order to address those risks, and Mr Higgins spoke about the risks, as well. Can you elaborate on what high-level discussions are taking place, what procedures are being put in place and what mechanisms are being developed to address some of the risks that you highlighted in written evidence and in today’s evidence?

Charlotte Vitty

The main areas of work are within the joint programme board and in the seven individual workstreams underneath it. Within our business, the BTPA has mirrored that structure exactly to ensure that we are driving out those areas in order to make sure that we are communicating effectively with the programme board. We have mirrored the structure in terms of resource from the authority and resource from within the force, so that we are capturing the governance and authority requirements, as well as the operational elements of the business. We then bring that back to the programme board and share it with our colleagues around the table.

John Foley

I will respond as well, if I may, Mr Macpherson. The programme board is made up of representatives from the SPA, the BTPA, the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government. The BTP and Police Scotland have also recently joined the process. They were not involved earlier because a lot of the board’s work concentrated on the legislation and what might be required, so there was a heavy civil service involvement in that.

As Charlotte Vitty mentioned, there are seven workstreams that could almost be described as shared workstreams. The SPA and the BTPA are involved in some—there is a bit of a mix. A risk register has been set up, and the meetings are regular—the next one is towards the end of this month—and well attended. I am on the programme board, as is Charlotte, so there is senior representation and we are managing the process effectively and to a timeline.

Charlotte Vitty

It is important to make it clear that some of the emerging risks for BTPA business are happening to us here and now. We have to change how we work and negotiate some of our commercial contracts because—for example—there is no point in signing a five-year national contract for IT service delivery when we have to make sure that we are agile enough to deal with a devolution date. The risks that are emerging are about us communicating effectively with the Scottish Police Authority, but also being able to manage our own business with the pressures that we currently face.

Ben Macpherson

Throughout all those mechanisms and discussions, is there a shared sense of good faith and of constructive, collaborative spirit and determination? Is that paramount to all sides?

John Foley

Yes—there is an open forum. We are able to share our views with each other and identify areas where we think that we need to work to overcome potential difficulties. The project is managed well, as you would expect, under the circumstances.

Charlotte Vitty

We have brought in a specialist resource to work and support us in the process. It is in no one’s best interest not to come to the table and work together, so that is absolutely what we are doing.

Ben Macpherson

Thank you for that reassurance.

John Foley

I will give Mr Macpherson a sense of where the SPA is. Momentum has picked up quite a bit over the past couple of months; I have officers attached to the work, and the feedback from them is that their collaboration and co-operation with colleagues across the group has increased significantly. That suggests that there will be momentum, as we move forward.

Ben Macpherson

Working together is having a positive effect.

John Foley

Yes.

11:15  



Stewart Stevenson

Douglas Ross raised the issue of the risks associated with the putative loss of 400 officers in Scotland over the next few years. Has the loss of 28,400 police officers in England and Wales since 2013 translated into any risks or difficulties for the British Transport Police?

Chief Constable Crowther

I will make two points on that. The resources that have been lost to policing in England and Wales have been lost primarily from geographic forces. A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that was published last week speaks of many of the difficulties that are now being found in police forces, and there are clear arguments and viewpoints about whether the two things are connected.

However, the BTP has encountered a different experience. As you know, the train operating community directly funds our budget—the police authority independently sets the budget and it is levied on the industry according to a charge model through police service agreements. We also enjoy around £20 million of extra funding through enhanced police service agreements that those fairly hard-nosed commercial people decide to fund in addition to what we already do because of the value that they see in what we deliver. As I said to HMIC, which is currently inspecting us, the graph that shows the financial profile for many geographic forces in England and Wales tends to go downwards whereas ours has gone upwards. That is an interesting commentary on the service that people believe they get from the BTP.

Stewart Stevenson

I was not aware of the £20 million in enhanced payments. What does that buy? Please be as brief as possible, as we are now short of time.

Chief Constable Crowther

It can buy a range of different facilities. Some police service agreement holders buy in specific neighbourhood teams in areas where they want to enhance what we do. That work might involve police community support officers, which we have in England and Wales but not in Scotland, or police officers. In other circumstances, we have been doing a lot of work with Network Rail to identify how we can contribute to its effective running of the network. I seconded one of my best chief superintendents to Network Rail for a year to help it to develop a national disruption strategy, the net result of which is around £8 million of additional investment by Network Rail in the BTP and infrastructure. We work very closely with Network Rail to avoid disruption.

As part of our wider public value ethos, we believe not only that a safe and secure—that is, low-crime and high-confidence—network is a good thing but that a reliable network is a good thing because it is good for the economy and for social inclusion. We have some interesting initiatives with Transport for London whereby it gives us additional funding and we have response police officers who are trained to act as medics while they are out answering normal calls. The London underground has a particular challenge with people being taken ill on trains during the rush hour and, if a tube train is held up, trains back up in the tunnels and a critical incident is created behind it. We therefore deploy police officers with medical training who are able to take command of an incident and get people off the train to allow it to keep running while they give immediate first aid before the ambulance service arrives. We also have what are, in effect, joint incident resolution teams that include engineers and response people from the railway. They turn up together, having enjoyed the advantage of the blue-light route to a scene, and all the people who can solve an incident quickly are on the scene at the same time, working closely together.

Those initiatives are steeped in a clear financial case for keeping the network running.

Fulton MacGregor

How will the recruitment for the new transport unit work? Will individuals have the opportunity to state a preference for that at the point of entry to the police, or will the approach be more that people will choose to specialise in that when they are in the police and will then be supported and trained to do so?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

I think that it would be a combination of both. As part of maintaining the numbers in the transport unit, future applicants to Police Scotland would be made well aware during the application process that they could find themselves posted to the transport unit. Currently, any new recruit coming into Police Scotland is asked to nominate three preference areas where they wish to work. Normally, those are geographical areas—for example, someone might say that they wish to work in Glasgow, Lanarkshire or Ayrshire. I have not thought through whether we will include the opportunity straight off the bat for them to go into the transport hub. That is a fair suggestion. However, I am absolutely certain that the approach will be similar to the recruitment process for road policing, to keep with that parallel. We invite people to apply to undertake duties in road policing and, if they are successful, we give them bespoke training such as advanced driver and crash investigation training. I see a similar path into the transport unit.

Equally, it might potentially be stated as a preference at the initial point of application. New recruits might be able to say that their first preference is to work in Glasgow, but actually they would quite like to work in Glasgow in the transport unit. I do not see any huge difficulty with that.

The Convener

I will finish with one last cross-border issue, which is the issue of Tasers. In September 2006, the BTP announced that it had decided to deploy Taser devices to some of its officers in Scotland. Taser devices give officers extra ability to protect themselves and the public when faced with extreme violence, and every force in England and Wales, including the BTP, routinely deploys them. However, the policy in Police Scotland is to permit only authorised firearms officers to deploy Tasers. How will that play out?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

You are absolutely correct that currently in Police Scotland only my authorised firearms officers carry a Taser. Should integration occur, one of the first things that I will have to do is to assess the threat in the wider rail network and see whether it is still appropriate, in terms of the wider Police Scotland threat assessment, to continue that practice.

The Convener

So, potentially, different policies could be deployed north and south of the border. The major question then is that, if Tasers are deployed on one side of the border and not by Police Scotland transport officers on the other, will that make them more vulnerable?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

No. I would take a slightly different perspective—I would say that there would be a consistent policy for all Police Scotland officers. The availability of Tasers on the rail network could be delivered by the existing firearms officers. That assumes that, when we carry out the threat assessment, we agree that it is still appropriate to continue the carriage of Tasers in rail stations.

The Convener

Perhaps an authorised firearms officer will be seconded to the unit or will be a permanent member of it. I am not exactly sure how that would work. Am I seeing problems where none exists?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Come April 2019, if the decision is made, the fundamental question would not be whether there should be Tasers in stations in England and Wales and no Tasers in Scotland; it would be about Police Scotland’s capability to meet every threat in every environment, whether in Sauchiehall Street or Union Street or in Central station or Waverley station. It would be about the best way to mitigate threat, which could be to continue to have a Taser deployment in train stations. Currently, Police Scotland issues Tasers only to authorised firearms officers and it is my understanding that the British Transport Police has Taser-trained officers but that they are not firearms officers.

Chief Constable Crowther

Mr Higgins is right. The people who carry Tasers in the British Transport Police are not exclusively firearms officers, although we have firearms officers and they carry Tasers as well.

As Mr Higgins said, Police Scotland will need to make its assessments of the threat and the risk. Our approach is based on a transport-specific strategic threat and risk assessment of terrorist threats. We seek to counter 24 identified attack methodologies and we deploy resources and capability according to those attack methodologies that we think are pertinent to the rail transport sector. I will not give you the full history lesson, but Britain’s railways have been attacked by terrorists in three centuries and we know that—internationally—transport hubs and transport networks are attractive targets for terrorists because of the economic impact of any attack and because they are crowded places. That is what drives our deployment.

As responsibility passes, so does the responsibility for making those assessments, and I am sure that Mr Higgins will make appropriate judgments.

John Finnie

I make the point to the two operational police officers that risk assessment is an on-going process. An idealist such as me wants a situation in 2019 in which not only the Tasers are locked in a cupboard, but the guns are, too. That is perhaps unlikely, but it is entirely academic to be discussing a threat level two years hence. Do the operational police officers agree?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

The short answer is yes, Mr Finnie.

Douglas Ross

Although I understand Mr Finnie’s argument, we should always look at all the eventualities and possibilities. Would it be a concern for the BTP if we decided not to have Taser-carrying officers routinely deployed in stations in Scotland, despite them being deployed south of the border? Would there be a concern that there could be a higher risk of a terrorist attack taking place, or starting, north of the border?

Chief Constable Crowther

I am not sure that I would make that link. We would work really closely with Police Scotland to understand the nature of the risk and we would come to appropriate decisions about how to deal with it. An interesting element—it goes back to the earlier point about cross-border operations—is what happens to officers from either force who transcend into the other jurisdiction carrying Tasers or firearms. When we look at some of the attack methodologies that are used elsewhere, we see that all sorts of tactics have to be deployed. One of the key things that we have to sort out is what interoperability looks like and how it is best managed.

The Convener

The important thing is that it has been raised. It is very much in the forefront of the issues that are to be considered.

Douglas Ross

Will the BTP’s determinations south of the border play into any Police Scotland thought processes and will it be a consultee? If the BTP still believes that there is a threat and it requires officers south of the border to be armed with Tasers, will that come into your or your successor’s considerations?

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins

Yes, it will come into the assessment.

The Convener

Has the BTP received a response to its request for “urgent clarification” on future cross-border policing arrangements?

Chief Constable Crowther

I have received an assurance from the Department for Transport that that will be dealt with in the legislative arrangements.

The Convener

So you have not received a response yet, but you hope that it is imminent.

Chief Constable Crowther

I am assured that it will be dealt with and I am keen to see the legislative draft.

The Convener

Thank you very much; that concludes our questioning. It has been a very helpful session.

The next committee meeting will be on 14 March, when we will hear from the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs on the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill and we will continue to take evidence on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

11:29 Meeting continued in private until 13:01.  



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Second meeting transcript

The Convener

Agenda item 7 is our second evidence session on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. I refer members to paper 7, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 8, which is a SPICe paper.

I welcome the panel, which comprises Nigel Goodband, national chairman of the British Transport Police Federation; Chief Superintendent John McBride of the British Transport Police branch of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales; Michael Hogg, regional organiser at the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers; Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation; and Alisdair Burnie, staff representative, Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

We will go straight to questions from members.

Douglas Ross

The British Transport Police Federation states in its submission that it

“sincerely hopes that the views of those most affected by the integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland, namely the BTP police officers ... will be given due consideration in the final decision for integration.”

Do you think that that is happening at this stage? Are you concerned about the fact that the consultation on the Smith commission’s proposal that powers over the BTP in Scotland be devolved to the Scottish Parliament focused only on one area—taking the BTP into Police Scotland—rather than on other options that were available? On page 9 of its submission, the federation says that the process has been one of “engagement but not consultation”. Will you elaborate on that?

Nigel Goodband (British Transport Police Federation)

As a federation, we believe that, right from the outset, the question that the Scottish Government was asking was how best to integrate the BTP into Police Scotland, and not whether that should happen. A number of options were put forward by the British Transport Police Authority but, in our opinion, the Scottish Government dismissed all the options bar one—that of total integration. In the process that we have been involved in, we have seen no evidence of that approach having any benefit—or, indeed, of the Smith commission recommending full integration. It recommended that the relevant powers be devolved, but it did not recommend that the BTP should be subsumed into Police Scotland. That was very concerning from our perspective.

We feel that, right from the outset, there has been no acknowledgement of our views or those of the police officers whom we represent, because a simple decision has been taken that there is only one option—that of full integration.

Douglas Ross

I want to go further into the British Transport Police Federation’s written submission. You mention the BTP command and control system, which seems to operate very well. Will you explain that further? Last week, Parliament was presented with a report from Audit Scotland on Police Scotland’s failed i6 project, which was a £46 million project that was all about information technology systems for the single police force. The report concludes that our officers in Scotland are still using

“out-of-date, inefficient and poorly integrated systems.”

What concerns does that give the federation and the other organisations that are represented on the panel about the BTP functions coming into a force that has an antiquated and potentially dangerous system that is not working for our officers?

Nigel Goodband

I can only comment on what the British Transport Police has in place at the moment, which is a seamless command and control system. It has one crime recording system and a reporting line through train drivers and victims. The existing process works and is successful. There were teething problems with the introduction of the new Niche Technology system that has been implemented in the BTP, but it is a positive. The Niche command and control system is better than previous systems and is proven to work.

The media comments on the failure of the i6 project in Police Scotland raise concerns. One is that there will possibly be two command and control systems and there could be issues about deciding where a victim sits between the two. A victim might get on a train in London but then suddenly report a crime in Scotland, which could lead to a debate about where the crime occurred and whether it was in England or Scotland. That could throw up unnecessary difficulties.

Chief Superintendent John McBride (Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales (British Transport Police Branch))

I thank the committee for the opportunity to share the views of the BTP branch of the Police Superintendents Association.

As an operational commander and senior leader, I believe that it is imperative to have one joined-up command and control system, whether it is in Police Scotland, the legacy forces or the BTP. That is an imperative in railway policing. I will give an operational example. Right now, we are preparing our plans for the forthcoming world cup qualifier between Scotland and England. In the current BTP context, it is really important for me as an operational commander to be able to see train loadings and where all the fans who are travelling by train get on, whether that is in Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen or Inverness. Post April 2019, as the operational commander in any new railway division, it will be vital to have clarity on where my resources are in that division so that we can deliver for the public and the train operators and perform at the operational optimum.

Calum Steele (Scottish Police Federation)

To an extent, we cannot help an awful lot on what might happen with command and control systems if the BTP comes into Police Scotland. We would need assurances and a response from the police service on that. However, I can comment from a perspective of logic and common sense.

I have experience of the BTP system, having been foolish enough to leave a bag on a train, which, through the skills and good offices of the diligent officers at the Haymarket depot, I was able to recover the same day. Given all the difficulties that the Police Service of Scotland has, I would find it odd if there was a suggestion that it should simply switch off the current system if or when it takes over the BTP functions in Scotland. It seems to me inherently logical for the service to continue to maintain a system that works. That is in line with the assurances that Bernie Higgins gave that a dedicated transport policing system will be maintained in the Police Service of Scotland. I cannot imagine that anyone in the IT departments of the service is devising a cunning plan to get rid of something that works and replace it with something that might not.

There might even be benefits for the wider police service if it looks at what the BTP has and whether that model could be used in the police service. It is not just a question of where there might be disbenefits; in the opposite direction, there might be benefits. For all the reasons that Nigel Goodband and Chief Superintendent McBride have laid out, I cannot envisage that the service would simply turn off those things. Ultimately, however, all that we can do is speculate, because we are not in a position to answer that question.

Michael Hogg (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers)

As far as the staff are concerned, it is crucial to have a fit-for-purpose system in place, because it means that the correct information can be relayed to the BTP. That is a fundamental for the drivers and guards on the trains. It is crucial that we get the communication correct and have a proper system in place.

Alisdair Burnie (Transport Salaried Staffs Association)

I am speaking today primarily as a staff representative from the TSSA, but I can comment on the capabilities of the Niche Technology IT system. The command and control system is also integrated into crime and case management. Chief Superintendent McBride alluded to the benefits of having a live, instant management system, but it also has great advantages for crime recording and management and the case management that follows. An integrated system means that there should be no gaps in inquiries or victim services and a common standard throughout Scotland.

In comparison, Police Scotland has at least eight different crime recording systems and at least eight case management systems, none of which speaks to the others. The advantages of our system are huge and it is to the benefit of all. Moving to Police Scotland’s current IT systems would be disadvantageous.

Douglas Ross

I was going to come to this point later but, as you have raised it, will you further explain the difference between crime recording in Scotland and in England? I understand from the evidence that that is not a problem at present because the BTP records the crimes. However, am I correct to say that, in Scotland, crimes are recorded from one point but in England they are recorded at another point? Is there, therefore, potential for loss of evidence and an inability to record crimes as efficiently as you do at present?

Alisdair Burnie

That is essentially correct. England and Wales obey the Home Office counting rules and crime recording standards, whereas in Scotland, including in the BTP, we obey the Scottish crime recording standards, and our performance has been measured as excellent.

One difference is the locus of the crime. Generally, our crimes are transient, and the start and end locations can cross borders. For commonsense reasons, the BTP considers the end location to be the location and it begins to allocate crime inquiries from there, whereas Police Scotland considers the start location to be the location of the crime. I am talking about instances when the exact location is not known. If something happens en route between England and Scotland but it is not possible to say exactly where the crime occurred, we will record the end location and begin our inquiries there. Police Scotland considers the start location to be the location of the crime. An English location could mean that different legislation, procedures and inquiries apply.

Douglas Ross

I have a final question on that point, although I would like to come back to other issues if we have time. Calum Steele mentioned the evidence that Assistant Chief Constable Higgins gave last week about having a dedicated railway policing unit within Police Scotland. Did the witnesses—particularly the federation and Chief Superintendent McBride—take reassurances from the evidence that we heard last week about the two or three weeks of additional training that would be given to all officers who come into Police Scotland, which would upskill them enough for them to be seen as dedicated railway policing officers?

I also have a question about the personal track safety certificate that officers need to have. What implications will there be if officers in Scotland are not trained to the same level as BTP officers and they do not have a personal track safety certificate?

11:45  



Nigel Goodband

I was not reassured by Mr Higgins’s evidence. I do not think that he has thought about the consequences of training every police officer in Police Scotland. The training does not come free; there is a massive cost to it. Every officer in Police Scotland who intends to police the railway—or go anywhere near the railway—will have to have the personal track safety certificate. If someone enters that dangerous environment without the understanding and expertise that ensures that they know where they can stand, where they can walk, what the direction of travel is and so on, they will put themselves in a dangerous situation. I am sure that Mr Steele from the Scottish Police Federation would be really concerned if his members were suddenly patrolling the tracks with no certification and no guarantee that, if something happened, they would get support from the organisation.

There is a misconception that an officer can simply be trained to work in the railway environment. There is initial training, but training is biennial and officers must keep taking a pass-or-fail refresher course and recertify in order to continue working in that environment. They must also carry their certificate with them when they are in that environment. There will be a continual cost for every officer who works in the railway environment. Speaking personally, I was not reassured by Mr Higgins’s comments, given the massive cost implications.

Chief Superintendent McBride

As Mr Goodband said, danger is ever present on the railway. BTP officers undertake track safety training, which is refreshed regularly. Such skills have to be used regularly, because if they are not used, the training will wane over time. Police officers are bombarded with training in a range of areas, and if officers are not using their track safety training and do not have that familiarity with the dangerous, hostile operating environment that is the railway, people could be put in danger.

We go through the personal safety training because, from a health and safety point of view, it is necessary to protect our officers, but the endgame in all of this is to ensure that police procedures are honed and improved to reduce disruption to the public. That is why we do the PTS. The benefits that flow from that are all geared to the public and to recovering operations more quickly when they have been brought to a stop by a criminal act or mental health episode.

Michael Hogg

The RMT supports the proper training of people who have to be anywhere near our railway. That is crucial.

I read the evidence from last week’s meeting, and we do not necessarily accept what was said about the proposed merger. Our position is clear: from a trade union perspective, we do not support the proposal that is on the table to merge the British Transport Police and Police Scotland. We have not ruled out the option of taking industrial action to retain BTP officers on the railway, because we are concerned about the safety of railway staff and passengers on trains in Scotland.

The retention of the British Transport Police on our trains is part of the safer Scottish trains campaign that we have embarked on, because the British Transport Police and safer Scottish trains are inextricably linked. We see the need to have BTP officers on our trains. They are properly trained, and having staff with a personal track safety certificate is crucial. Anything else is pure nonsense, as far as we are concerned.

Calum Steele

To some extent, my response will reflect what I have already said. As members of the committee will know, I am not in the business of unnecessarily defending senior officers in the Scottish police service, or the service itself. It is probably not helpful to try to second guess or interpret what Assistant Chief Constable Higgins has said. However, I did not take his evidence to mean what Mr Goodband has said. To my mind, ACC Higgins made it clear that, although every officer would receive an additional three weeks of training on aspects of policing of the railway, the specialist railway policing element would receive additional training over and above that. I am sure that, if someone was to write to him and ask him to clarify his view, he would confirm that. It will not be the case that there will just be three weeks of training for everyone and that will tick a box for policing on the railways.

I agree with the points about how dangerous the railways are. Trains are bloody fast and they can scare the bejesus out of you if you are not used to working in railway environments. I came from a smaller provincial force where the relationships and the reliance on the local officers and BTP officers were not the same as those in the central belt, where there are multiple tracks and all the rest of it, but I have worked—albeit not to any great extent—on the railways. I have recovered bodies from railways. I appreciate that working on single lines where the train has come to a halt is entirely different from the elements of track safety associated with passing trains and all the rest of it.

However, I do not consider it feasible—I find it incomprehensible—that the service, be it the BTP in its current state, a hybrid or a transport service within the Police Service of Scotland, would put a police officer out to work on a railway line without their having the appropriate track safety requirements. The old adage “If you think health and safety is expensive, try an accident” would come bearing down on them at a hell of a rate of knots—and I would be at the front of the queue knocking lumps out of them for even suggesting it should be done that way.

On ACC Higgins’s general evidence, the awareness raising and additional training for the police service would be a very good thing. I was also pretty comforted—as far as I could be without working through the detail of what we are going to be looking at in an absolute sense—that whatever specialist resources are going to be reserved for the railways will receive the adequate and necessary training to do their jobs.

The Convener

Members have a number of supplementaries following Douglas Ross’s line of questioning.

Rona Mackay

My question relates to Nigel Goodband’s opening statement. What is his reaction to last week’s evidence from Chief Constable Crowther of the BTP, who said:

“I totally accept that the Smith commission recommendations, as taken forward in the Scotland Act 2016, bring about the devolution of the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland—there is no doubt about that and we totally support it.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 8.]

Nigel Goodband

I totally agree with that statement. I said at the beginning of the session that we have seen no evidence in the Smith commission’s work that states that there should be full integration of the BTP into Police Scotland.

We support and understand the Smith commission and the devolution aspects of it; we do not dispute that. However, we are in dispute with the process. A number of options were proposed to assist the Scottish Government in achieving that aim, but only one option has been considered throughout the process. That is our concern.

Rona Mackay

What was your preferred option?

Nigel Goodband

My personal preferred option would be for the BTP to remain as one national police force policing the railway environment. If the Scottish Government’s will was to take more ownership and control over that, I see no reason why BTP officers cannot remain in the British Transport Police, which could be renamed and rebadged as the Scottish transport police, for example; officers would remain part of a national police force.

It is interesting to hear that there is a view in Scotland that the Government is trying to create, and have accountability for policing in, one national police force. The BTP is a national police force, and a very successful one. I regularly hear my members ask, “Are they just robbing Peter to pay Paul to achieve the same aim?” To date, we have seen no evidence that there would be any benefit in that approach, or any failing of the BTP that would suggest that such a change should be made. In inspection after inspection, we have proved that the way in which we police the railways—our policing model—is successful, so why would you want to change that? Another relevant saying is, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

Rona Mackay

I do not think that anyone is suggesting that there have been failings on the part of the BTP, or questioning its excellence. The question is about why the BTP should not be integrated into Scotland’s national police force.

Nigel Goodband

That is because, ultimately, you would be severing the services of a police force—that is to say, the BTP. As I have said, we are a national force. Suddenly to take the BTP of Scotland away from the BTP would be making that severance and, for me, creating an unnecessary border between two police forces.

Rona Mackay

Does anyone else have a view?

Alisdair Burnie

I totally concur with what my BTP Federation colleague has said. We do not understand why you are trying to fix something that is not broken. You already have what you need. It appears that you want to break up the BTP in Scotland simply to—

Rona Mackay

It is not a question of breaking it up.

Alisdair Burnie

But, ma’am, that is the feeling. Then you will recreate it in some other form in Police Scotland. You already have that, so you can have what you want at no cost: basically, option 2. I am sorry, but I just do not understand it—and neither do the staff.

Chief Superintendent McBride

Mr Higgins said—not at the committee’s recent meeting, but at a previous round-table session—that although that could be done it would be “massively complicated”. I certainly would not disagree. The BTP superintendents branch will work to help the Parliament and the committee to understand all the risks, as we see them from our professional point of view.

Ministers have said repeatedly how highly they value the service that the men and women of the BTP in Scotland provide. In trying to replicate that service, and in going down the proposal route as it is, we are extracting something that has been immersed in our railway policing culture for over 150 years and in its current format for about 67 years. From that has been born significant innovation in our approaches to honing necessary police procedures so as still to fulfil our every need but to do so in a way that reduces any disruption that might be caused by those police procedures.

There are generally five areas that cause criminal disruption to the railway in this country: trespass and vandalism; cable theft; level crossings; graffiti; and mental health and deaths on the railway. Each of those happens in a very hostile operating environment. The BTP has looked at how we investigate those matters and has innovated, in many ways, to ensure that we can do it and cause the least possible amount of disruption to train operators and thereby to the travelling public. That is so that the travelling public can have confidence that the services will get them to work each day, on time and consistently, and to business meetings and family celebrations without any more disruption than is necessary.

That specialism, which has been built up over many years, is what I think is at risk. I will work to try to replicate that. I use the word “replicate”, because that is what I hear people saying. We want the service to be at least as good as it is just now.

12:00  



In accepting the journey that we might be on, we need to remember that this will, as Mr Higgins said, be massively complicated, and we should accept that there is likely to be a level of disruption or a diminishing of the service as we transition to the Police Scotland railway division.

However, there is a risk to all the good that we do. Criminal disruption costs more than £5 million—and if you add in the suicide and deaths element, you very quickly go up to more than £13 million. From our data across the country, we know that, when local police get involved in some of those investigations from the start, it takes at least 50 per cent longer to carry out a full investigation and recover the service. I suggest, therefore, that there is likely to be an additional cost in that respect.

However, we will work and, as we do right now, share our practices with the Scottish Government and its seven workstreams. We are working to share with Police Scotland colleagues how we police the railways in order to try to build that specialism; however, it is born out of a 150-year-old culture and attitude, and a leadership that allows the men and women in the division to problem solve more with the railway than with police colleagues, simply because of the environment that we work in and, through that innovation, to arrive at solutions that deliver for the public.

The Convener

Ben Macpherson is next, to be followed by Mary Fee. These are still supplementary questions, but it is a good line of questioning.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

It is important to bear in mind that there is a collective determination to maintain a transport policing ethos, no matter how Parliament chooses to proceed. Contrary to what Douglas Ross has said but in a similar vein to Calum Steele’s comments, my interpretation of last week’s evidence from ACC Higgins is that a specialist railway policing entity will be maintained in Police Scotland together with extra training in transport policing for all new recruits who go through Police Scotland’s training programme at Tulliallan. Given that collective determination to maintain a transport policing ethos—indeed, to enhance the transport policing offering here in Scotland—I would have thought that that extra capacity in the police service would be welcomed by the panel.

Nigel Goodband

An example of this occurred recently in Holland; unfortunately it did not work there, and the Dutch railway now has private security. The train operating companies use private security to police—

Ben Macpherson

But, with respect, I do not think that anything like that is being proposed here.

Nigel Goodband

You are suggesting that integration with Police Scotland would provide wider specialism and wider resource, and I would contradict that by citing Holland as an example in which the same perception was given when the same decision was made, but where the move itself did not work. Similarly, in his review of the terrorist threat to London—which, I note, has the largest police force in the UK—Lord Harris has recommended that the Metropolitan Police adopt some of the BTP’s good practices.

I return to my response to Ms Mackay’s question and ask: why fix something that is not broken? We provide an excellent service, and there is no logic, no reason and—most important—no evidence as to why the service that is being provided today should be transferred to another police service.

Ben Macpherson

As Rona Mackay pointed out, there is no perception here that the British Transport Police is broken. As I understand it, the proposed approach is about enhancing the available transport policing offering in Scotland by utilising the economies of scale and the extra specialist services that Police Scotland would bring.

On your points about Holland and London, I understand that the proposal is to maintain a specialist railway policing entity within Police Scotland. Those specialist skills will be maintained and enhanced, and extra capacity will be created on top of that by greater awareness and training through the Police Scotland programme. The idea that that is a contraction of the railway policing offering is a misrepresentation—capacity within the service will be enhanced.

Chief Superintendent McBride

The enhancement is an interesting area. Crime on the railway in Scotland is at an incredibly low level, and the railway is probably one of the safest environments in the country. The chance of someone being an assault victim or suffering any violence is one for every 275,000 passengers; that gives an idea of the levels of criminality. While enhancements are always welcome, a decision always has to be made about prioritisation over where crime happens.

Our history, our planning and our policing plan development acknowledge the key role of front-line staff who work in the railway. I mentioned innovation earlier; a number of years ago we brought about the DNA spittle stick, the use of which has been rolled out from the railway to buses and other public transport. The stick allows anyone who is spat at—which is a disgusting assault—to take a sample, which is analysed; very often we get a successful hit. There are priorities to be made; if we deal with about 5,000 crimes on the railway, that is one of our priorities. I am pleased to say that we have fewer than 100 assaults on staff every year on the railways in Scotland. That is too many, but it is at a low level, as is crime in general. The challenge for us is keeping the level that low.

Enhancements are welcome if staff are trained. At the round-table session, Mr Hanstock and Mr Higgins spoke of collaboration when our backs are to the wall. When there is serious disorder, we come together; we plan for events with Police Scotland, as the committee would expect. However, if our backs are not to the wall and we are not in a heightened serious disorder mode, when it comes to tasking specialist resources I would use BTP specialists—dog handlers, working-at-heights teams or public order officers—because they understand the operating context of the railway, and understand that some police procedures can add to disruption on the railway. Our procedures have been adapted and honed, and they are understood by those specialists. We would not always bring in people from other forces, because that level of knowledge is not there just now. As we progress our work and share our training with Police Scotland, we hope that they will see how we train and operate, and see our culture of policing on the railway.

In 2012, for every million passenger journeys, we had about 48 crimes; that figure is now down to 45 crimes. The railway environment in Scotland is incredibly safe—I hope that no-one misunderstands that fact—and we are charged to keep it thus. We do that through our specialist skills and training, and through being immersed in a much bigger body that innovates to provide solutions that keep services running and delivering for the public.

The Convener

We have two more supplementaries, and we will then move on to our main lines of questioning with Stewart Stevenson.

Mary Fee

Specialist resources have been mentioned and it is worth pointing out the work that the BTP has done in reducing the incidence of metal theft. There has been an 87 per cent reduction in such theft in the past few years, which has had a massive knock-on impact on the wider rail network. I do not know whether you want to comment on that.

On another issue, BTP officers tend to be visible. I am not by any means saying that Police Scotland officers are not visible, but the perception is that BTP officers are visible, particularly during antisocial hours, when we expect to see BTP officers in stations late at night and early in the morning to prevent or tackle antisocial behaviour, or any incidents that kick off on trains. Passengers have an expectation that they will see BTP officers. What impact might there be on that visibility if the merger was to go ahead? Do you envisage there being a pull-back from that visible policing?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I do not. I know that there is a danger that BTP or future railway policing officers could be pulled away. In fact, we explained in our written submission why we think that there is a danger that that could happen in some abstraction.

On the issue of late-night disorder, I am pleased that you have seen the visibility of BTP officers. We have just spent the past 12 to 18 months looking at our demand profile and how we meet it both across the force and here in Scotland. On 9 April, we will change the rosters for officers and staff. That is never popular, but we are doing it because we feel that we are slightly out of step with the main demands.

In my view, the railway is the economic backbone of the country because it contributes so much. In that regard, we can talk about the situation during the day of commuters being confident about getting to work or we can talk about the night-time economy and people going into our larger towns and cities to enjoy the theatre, pubs, cafes or whatever. We can pull railway staff into that consideration because they sometimes have to deal, as Mary Fee indicated, with the less savoury characters who take to the trains of an evening. My officers are out there to bring confidence to the railway staff. If the staff are not on the trains because they do not have that confidence, the trains are unlikely to run—being in the railway police for 28 years has taught me that. In addition, if the public do not have that confidence, they will not travel in on late-night services or, more important, travel home on them after they have enjoyed an evening out with their friends, during which they have spent money that goes into the local economy.

I will not say more about the issues of late-night disorder and abstractions, because they are covered in the written submission from the BTP superintendents branch, but I will talk briefly about the issue of metal theft. I could talk at length about metal theft, but I will save the committee from that.

In my experience, the phenomenon of metal theft was first identified by the British Transport Police, above any other force in the country. We saw it because we saw the impact that it was having on the trains as a public service for people getting into work—we saw the disruption that was being caused. We worked closely with Network Rail and train operators to devise a plan that would help to overcome that disruption. However, we saw very quickly that metal theft went much wider than the transport network. We saw that it arose from the economics of supply and demand, because the price of metal was going up around the world. However, we saw that metal theft was starting to affect critical national infrastructure, local authority housing stock, faith buildings and a range of areas across communities, but particularly local businesses.

The BTP led a number of national campaigns against metal theft. The first one, which was done with the help of the Home Office and a £5 million grant, brought about some legislative change. As committee members will know, we have done something similar in Scotland through a £600,000 grant from Transport Scotland. We have encouraged, engineered and collaborated across critical national infrastructure with utilities companies, other police forces and other law enforcement agencies to bring about a reduction in metal theft.

I think that the figures that were quoted are the railway figures, but a 52 per cent reduction in metal theft across Scotland has been brought about by the leadership that the BTP has shown in the campaign; the way in which we have galvanised other law enforcement agencies, local authorities and utilities to better protect their assets; more enforcement that has targeted metal thieves; work with scrap metal dealers and new regulation; and work with the Parliament, officials and ministers to change the law. That is the contribution that the BTP has made on metal theft, and that has led to that reduction.

12:15  



Alisdair Burnie

I want to say something in the vein of what the area commander has just said. The mutual metal theft operations resulted in many crimes—some of which were off the railway—being dealt with in their entirety by the BTP. That means that they were detected and reported as positive crime statistics. Those statistics were all transferred to Police Scotland, so it got the benefit of that in its statistics. We are integrated in the common aim of achieving justice.

Michael Hogg

A visual presence in freight and Network Rail yards is absolutely crucial; my members have certainly advised me that seeing the BTP regularly visiting such locations is absolutely crucial. The link between the BTP and the staff—obviously, BTP officers know the staff—and knowing the railway terrain are also absolutely crucial.

From a staff and trade union perspective, we can see the BTP expertise and knowledge being lost if the merger of it and Police Scotland goes ahead. The BTP would potentially be swallowed up because of Police Scotland resources. Let us consider Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen Street stations. You can bet your bottom dollar that if there was an antisocial behaviour incident in Princes Street, BTP officers in Edinburgh Waverley station concourse would be expected to deal with it. The expertise in, and knowledge of, dealing with any form of assault or antisocial behaviour on station concourses in Edinburgh and Glasgow or—God forbid—on the trains would therefore be lost.

A lot of information about verbal and physical assaults comes to the trade union, so they are a big concern for us. We are engaged with Transport Scotland, in conjunction with ScotRail and the BTP, about the possibility of using body cameras to address antisocial behaviour and physical or verbal assaults. It is coming over loud and clear from my members throughout the country that keeping the BTP’s expertise and knowledge, and the presence of BTP officers on the railway, are absolutely crucial and fundamental.

The Convener

John Finnie can ask a brief question before we move on to our main line of questioning.

John Finnie

I declare membership of the RMT parliamentary group.

It is not very often that I take a different view from Michael Hogg’s; I share his view on retention of a specialist service. I want to go back to a point that Chief Superintendent McBride made earlier—maybe I heard wrongly what you said. You were not implying that Police Scotland would deploy officers other than risk-assessed ones. That risk assessment would clearly show whether there was a requirement for additional training.

Chief Superintendent McBride

Sorry?

John Finnie

You talked earlier on about the need for specialist training. There was almost an implication that people could be deployed who have not been given specialist training.

Chief Superintendent McBride

Does that go back to track safety competence?

John Finnie

Yes.

Chief Superintendent McBride

I am not sure what point you are referring to.

John Finnie

Let me rephrase my question. Given the contractual requirements—never mind the legal and moral requirements—would no police officer, regardless of how he or she is badged, be deployed in a specialist area without having the necessary training?

Chief Superintendent McBride

It would certainly be my best professional advice to Police Scotland colleagues that they should not do that.

John Finnie

Okay. Thank you.

Stewart Stevenson

I want to talk about interfaces, which have come up. Each day, between 40 and 50 trains appear to cross the Scottish border. Each day, passenger trains leave the UK—London, in particular—for the Netherlands, Belgium and France, freight trains regularly come from Spain and Germany, and the first freight train from China has just arrived in the Great Britain network. The number of vehicles involved appears to be greater than the number that cross the Scottish border. It is worth saying that, as at 12.15 today, 7,393 trains had been operated in the GB network, 766 of them in Scotland. At the moment, there is an interface between policing by the BTP and general policing, in relation to those 766 trains, and there are 40 or so trains that go across the border. Does the arrangement governing management of the interfaces between the BTP and Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the SNCF and the SNCB work? It appears that I am hearing the suggestion that the proposed policing arrangement could not be made to work across the border between Scotland and England, but I am not hearing that the existing cross-border arrangements cause huge problems with France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other jurisdictions with which the UK is connected by train.

Calum Steele

I am not sure that I understand the question.

The Convener

I fear that you have baffled us with statistics.

Stewart Stevenson

I think that it was Mr Goodband who first raised the subject of interfaces, but I am open to being corrected.

Nigel Goodband

I am sorry, Mr Stevenson, but I am not in possession of any facts regarding the policing of the railway in Holland, other than the fact that—

Stewart Stevenson

Do forgive me. I was not asking about policing in the Nederlandse Spoorwegen network. My point is that we have trains that cross borders to other jurisdictions. An issue that was raised earlier was that the existence of a different jurisdiction in Scotland would be a major problem. Could you tell us about the problems between London and Paris, London and Brussels and London and the Netherlands?

Nigel Goodband

I have no evidence to enable me to answer that question. I have not suggested for a moment that there would be a difficulty with policing cross-border services between Scotland and England—we prove now that there is not a problem with that. We draw the inference that there could, because of the involvement of two different forces with different command structures, different crime recording systems and different communication systems, be a problem. I am not suggesting that there is a problem between Scotland and England at the moment. In fact, quite the reverse is true; the current model for policing cross-border services is successful. I hope that it will continue to work in that way.

Stewart Stevenson

Who records crimes on the 17 return journeys a day for passengers between London and Paris?

Nigel Goodband

I am not sure of the answer to that question.

Stewart Stevenson

So, that recording has not been of such character as to have come to your attention.

Nigel Goodband

No.

Stewart Stevenson

Cross-border policing of rail services—at least in that instance—has not been an issue.

Nigel Goodband

It has not, that I am aware of.

The Convener

If the witnesses would like after today’s meeting to provide further evidence on information that they are not currently aware of, the committee would be happy to receive it. However, we need to move on. We have got Stewart Stevenson’s point—unless anyone has anything substantial to add.

Chief Superintendent McBride

It might help the committee to know that the example that was mentioned involves a much more controlled environment—we are talking about ports, with all a port’s controls. I am not sure what the levels of crime are, but the system would work in the way that we have described: crimes would be recorded at the end-station destination. St Pancras is an international port, so crimes coming in would be recorded there for the reasons that have already been given by others: police have the victim and can get statements and start the inquiry. That is a much more controlled environment. I do not know the crime statistics for the Eurostar operations.

As Mr Goodband said, arrangements currently work effectively for trains that pass over the border between Scotland and England. I suppose that the proposal will bring in almost dual controls—we are asking two organisations to think completely differently about how crimes are recorded, and how incidents are dealt with, and about their competence as trains cross the border.

The Convener

We will move on.

Alexander Stewart

We were given to believe that one of the benefits of creating Police Scotland was that there would be specialist policing across the whole country and a seamless transition for employees in terms of their rights and conditions. That is not quite the picture that has been painted today. We have been advised that the transfer of rights and conditions for the BTP should be as seamless as it was for Police Scotland, although whether there was a seamless transition there is open to interpretation; I do not believe that the members and employees of Police Scotland saw it as seamless. I have major concerns about how the conditions for individuals and employees of the British Transport Police could be managed, maintained, retained and sustained as we go forward. Can I hear some views on that?

Nigel Goodband

That point is a major concern for the British Transport Police Federation, because the officers of the British Transport Police have dual status. As you have heard already, they are employees and police officers, but they are not Crown servants. In the transfer from the previous eight forces to Police Scotland the transfer was from Crown servants to Crown servants. To date, we do not know—we have not been shown—what the legal mechanism is for the transfer of employees to Police Scotland, where they will be Crown servants. That is a major concern.

Mr Matheson has sent me a letter to circulate among the officers of BTP Scotland and we hear the term, “triple-lock guarantee”. However, the terminology that is used in the letter and the policy memorandum say that that is the aim where “possible”. In my mind, that does not give a “triple-lock guarantee”. That level of uncertainty continues among British Transport Police officers: what exactly will their terms and conditions and their pensions look like when—or if—they transfer to Police Scotland?

Michael Hogg

The RMT does not represent the BTP—its employees are not our members—but from a railway staff perspective, terms and conditions are absolutely crucial. If there were to be attacks on terms and conditions, pensions or railway passes, the RMT would not hesitate to take industrial action and issue ballot papers. The RMT stands shoulder to shoulder with the British Transport Police Federation on protecting its members’ terms and conditions. It is not unreasonable to require a guarantee that their terms and conditions would be protected.

Alisdair Burnie

Police staff and TSSA members are now in fear of the proposed integration. They cannot see what is coming and they do not find any comfort or reassurance anywhere. It feels like we are being pushed towards a life and career cliff edge and will either jump or be pushed with no idea of what the landing will be like. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 were mentioned initially and then, understandably, discounted. A version of TUPE was similarly mentioned and discounted, and the latest idea is to use Cabinet Office statement of practice, or similar, staff transfer regulations, under which staff remain with the same employer and with the same pension fund, but that is not the case here.

I have to report that there is fear among staff about what might happen. One major fear is that they would not be able to remain with the TSSA once the transfer is completed, and would instead be with a union organisation that does not understand the lead up to the transfer, or the pay and conditions. Most staff who have options will take them, so please do not think that the number of staff that you expect to transfer will necessarily transfer, because that will not be the case.

12:30  



Alexander Stewart

The number of transferring staff is one of the main cruxes that we are looking at. The information that we have been given assumes transfer of a certain number of individuals. The package of quality and skills that comes with that transfer is important. Do you believe that, in reality, the number will be diminished because of the fear and anxiety that is being created by the situation?

Alisdair Burnie

Yes—that is accurate.

Calum Steele

In response to Mr Stewart’s question, it is important to make a couple of small points. I would never presume to speak for members of support staff about how the transfer from their former forces into Police Scotland went. However, from a police perspective, because terms and conditions were universal—by and large, bar one or two local nuances—the change resulted in very little difficulty.

Secondly, I understand why Mr Goodband made the reference to Crown servants, but the police are not Crown servants in Scotland. That common shorthand translates wrongly north of the border. It might be counting angels dancing on the head of a pin, but that is not the status of police officers in Scotland.

There are issues with regard to transferring employed police constables into roles that hold the office of constable, but from the preliminary examination that I have undertaken on the arrangements that exist at the Cabinet Office and how they relate to the TUPE principles, I do not see the issues as being insurmountable. Police Scotland currently employs officers under a variety of different terms and conditions based on when they joined and their particular arrangements. I suspect that there are very few officers left who are entitled to our rent allowance, but there are a large number who are entitled to transitional housing allowances. A very small number of officers—Mr Finnie was directly responsible for this—secured bespoke arrangements based on promises that they were given before they were due to start in 1994, versus what they were given when they started in October 1994. Officers are also on different pension schemes—those are known as the 1987, 2006 and 2015 pension schemes.

If—or when—the decision is taken to take the officers of the BTP into the Police Service of Scotland, one of my responsibilities in looking after the officers who would be my members would be to engage as proactively as possible with the British Transport Police Federation, with which we have nothing but the best working relationship, to ensure that we understand all the nuances across the range of entitlements of BTP officers, and that they are transferred into the Police Service of Scotland. I know that that will not necessarily be a clean and simple thing to do, because the nature of bringing people into an organisation is that it always results in differences. I suspect that we will, as happens with all organisations as they evolve, get closer to something that looks and feels similar to everybody, rather than having numbers of people on different elements of entitlement, as is currently the case in the police.

Mary Fee

My question is similar to Alexander Stewart’s: I wanted to ask whether you had been given any long-term guarantee about terms and conditions. I asked a question last week about staff terms and conditions on transfer, because it is my understanding that TUPE does not apply. Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said to me that he had

“been assured by ... the Scottish Government ... that they are working furiously to ensure that the current conditions of service of all British Transport Police staff will be honoured”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 20-21.]

Mr Foley added that it was his belief that that was “the Government’s intention”. I take it that today’s witnesses have been given no guarantees that that will be the case.

Nigel Goodband

We definitely have not been given guarantees. I very much welcome Mr Steele’s stance that the SPF would support officers if they transferred to Police Scotland, but there is a slight stumbling block. British Transport Police officers are under a contract of employment under employment legislation. They are not employed under police regulations. It is questionable whether our members could be represented by a police federation that is covered in statute under police regulations. We, the British Transport Police Federation, exist under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, not under police regulations.

I am not suggesting for one moment that we cannot achieve that, but there are many obstacles in the way that nobody understands. It has never been done before, and there is no legal mechanism to allow it. Yes, we can use the Cabinet Office statement of practice on staff transfers in the public sector but that is no guarantee for an officer who may transfer a year or two years down the line, because it contains no legally binding guarantee that those officers will keep their terms and conditions, their pensions and, in some cases, their free travel. Unfortunately, we do not have that guarantee.

Mary Fee

My concern is that British Transport Police officers’ enhanced set of terms and conditions will naturally be eroded over time. I accept Calum Steele’s point that there are a number of different legacy arrangements across Police Scotland, and that different officers have different enhancements. As officers leave, however, those enhancements are not maintained and there will be a natural diminishment. I am concerned that the same would apply to the British Transport Police.

Nigel Goodband

Yes.

Calum Steele

I will respond specifically to Mary Fee’s point about whether the position is one of enhancement or detriment. I am not sure that that question has been answered. It is certainly a bold statement to say that that is a position of fact. There are certain elements where the conditions of BTP officers are better than those of Police Scotland officers, not least regarding entitlements to travel on the rail network but, certainly from my understanding, those vary, depending on when people joined the BTP.

As regards general terms and conditions, it would be a bold step to state that there is a risk of deterioration for anyone coming into the police service of Scotland. I would like to think that, at this point, in no small way because of the work of the Scottish Police Federation among others, we have significantly better terms and conditions than police officers in many other parts of the UK. There is a danger of getting into apples and oranges here, but I know that many elements of the conditions that apply to the police service in Scotland are superior to those in England and Wales. To a large extent—although not exclusively—the BTP conditions of service are more closely aligned, in general terms, to those in England and Wales than to those in Scotland.

Chief Superintendent McBride

I turn to the substantive points in Mr Stewart’s and Ms Fee’s questions about terms and conditions. It is undoubtedly true that the proposals have caused significant angst and uncertainty among staff. Those are staff who we expect to go out every day and police the railways, in the really successful way that has been acknowledged by the committee, ministers and others. That angst is driven by complete uncertainty over the legal mechanism and what guarantees that mechanism may bring.

I will use an example. Mr Goodband has asked officials and others this question about the legal mechanism a number of times. Some of the staff in the BTP in Scotland have said, “Why would it be the 284 of us? Why is the wider organisation not”, if I can use the phrase, “at risk of going across? We do not know the legal mechanism and whether it would necessarily be us.”

As I said before, that comes from a culture of specialism and a conscious decision to join a specialist railway police force. People are saying, “Why would I want to transfer into something that is much more generalist?”

The pension arrangements are quite different, with a funded rather than an unfunded scheme, different accrual and contribution rates, different benefits and opportunities to retire and different indexation start points. It is “massively complicated”, to quote Mr Higgins again from the Justice Committee meeting on 1 November 2016.

The BTP is working with the Scottish Government and Police Scotland in the workstream on terms and conditions to try to unpick the issues and see how provision might transition across. It is undoubtedly extremely complicated and has caused great uncertainty and angst among the people who serve you in the BTP in Scotland.

The Convener

For information, members will remember that last week Mr Foley undertook to give an explanation of why TUPE did not apply. He has since responded to the clerks and referred the explanation to be made by the Scottish Government.

Fulton MacGregor

This question might best be directed at Mr Goodband, and perhaps also Mr McBride. Where are the majority of resources and assets for BTP situated, first on a UK basis and then on a Scotland basis?

Nigel Goodband

Each of the four divisions has centralised specialisms, that is crime scene investigators and managers, detectives, and reactive and proactive specialisms within the criminal investigation department. There are also centralised force specialisms in London at force headquarters. In the case of major incidents such as a murder investigation, support for the existing resources within divisions will be deployed.

Chief Superintendent McBride

As Mr Goodband has explained, like most other police forces, we are concentrated around a number of hubs. In Scotland, the majority of our resources are in the central belt, as they are for Police Scotland colleagues.

Fulton MacGregor

The reason why I asked was to come back to an earlier point from Mr McBride, who spoke about the significant cost increase if Police Scotland is involved at the start of an investigation or incident. In what circumstances would Police Scotland need to be involved at the start of an incident and how often does that occur?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I missed the start of that question. I said that there would be an additional cost increase—

Fulton MacGregor

Yes. An increase of 50 per cent was mentioned.

Chief Superintendent McBride

What I said was that we know that criminal disruption on the railway costs X amount. If local police forces attend first, we know that it will normally take at least 50 per cent more time and therefore additional cost to get the railway recovered and people moving again.

Fulton MacGregor

The 50 per cent was more in terms of time. How often does that happen? How often across Scotland does an incident occur on the railway that Police Scotland is first to respond to?

Chief Superintendent McBride

The figures for this year show that Police Scotland attended first at 1.8 per cent of incidents on the railway. That is roughly 2 incidents in a week out of a total of about 250 incidents.

Fulton MacGregor

What sort of incidents are they most likely to be?

Chief Superintendent McBride

Police Scotland would be called to intervene right across the spectrum of criminality. It could be trespass, vandalism, antisocial behaviour, disruption at stations and incidents on trains—a wide spectrum of incidents.

Fulton MacGregor

When Police Scotland or BTP arrive at the scene, do you accept that there are joined-up working arrangements in place between the services?

12:45  



Chief Superintendent McBride

Yes, absolutely. We collaborate daily. As I think I said earlier, we plan together for most big events. Police Scotland plans for the policing of the event. We normally always plan for the movements on the mass transit system, as tens of thousands of people can be going to see the concert or sporting event or whatever it happens to be.

Fulton MacGregor

Do you think that the confidence that John Foley, for example, and Bernie Higgins expressed when they were on our panel last week, which we have also heard about from other members [Interruption.]—

Chief Superintendent McBride

Sorry—I am struggling to hear you above the noise of the wind.

Fulton MacGregor

I know—I am noticing it too.

The Convener

Can you speak up, please, Fulton?

Fulton MacGregor

Last week, we heard from John Foley and Bernie Higgins that they were confident that the merger would be successful. Is that confidence a result of how current operations work, with Police Scotland already being involved? Does that mean that people feel that the merger can work successfully?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I do not know that I picked up on the confidence, if I am honest. It may very well have been there and I may have missed it.

Fulton MacGregor

I have some quotations here—I think that other people mentioned them earlier, but—

The Convener

I am trying to get everyone in, Fulton.

Fulton MacGregor

John Foley said:

“We are extremely confident that we will deliver the merger successfully”

and Bernie Higgins said:

“I am confident that the transition would occur and that it would be done in collaboration and partnership”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 29-30.]

Chief Superintendent McBride

I am probably on record both on behalf of the Police Superintendents Association and as the divisional commander as saying that, if we are talking about policing, there is no difference between arresting someone in Central station, Waverley station or Aberdeen station and arresting them on the high street. Police officers are police officers and they will be able to do that.

Where the specialism comes in—the cultural difference in a specialist police force—is in the discretionary effort and the discretionary benefit that we bring to the travelling public, the train operators and the wider Scottish economy. We allow service recovery by honing our police procedures and ensuring that they do not disrupt any more than is necessary. We add value by getting the service back up and running so that people can get to their work or their business meeting.

I am not convinced yet—although we are working with Police Scotland to share our procedures—that that discretionary effort and benefit will be available on day 1, on 1 April 2019, or any time soon after that. It could be quite disruptive.

Michael Hogg

I have an observation. Police Scotland would not have access to our railways if there was a derailment or a collision or any trespass on a railway. If Police Scotland officers do not have a PTS certificate, they cannot go on or near the running line.

Mairi Evans

I will hark back to an earlier point and follow on from what Fulton MacGregor said. Last week, John Finnie asked a question and I asked a follow-up question about how the British Transport Police were deployed across Scotland. We received those figures as part of supplementary evidence this week. There is quite a heavy presence in the central belt, but I am concerned that there is less of a presence as you move up towards my constituency of Angus North and Mearns, up around the north-east and across to the Highlands as well.

In that sense, if we are looking at a specific transport division within Police Scotland where those officers are trained, it would give me more comfort that if there was an incident in some of the areas that are not so well staffed at the moment, at least there would be a presence there that was capable of dealing with that incident. What are your thoughts on that?

Chief Superintendent McBride

I will go back to what I said earlier. We have just completed the demand review work and, from 9 April, we are changing how we look and feel to adapt to the demand. The demand in the north-east for the BTP is primarily football based. Quite a lot of work is done and effort is put in with the offshore industry because of some issues that can arise when people come back onshore. Some particular trains come down from the north-east all the way to Newcastle and they have to be policed seamlessly across the border because of the risk of disorder on those trains.

This is a two-way process. Police Scotland attends some of our calls—I think that I mentioned 1.8 per cent, or an average of about two every week. Over a year, we receive more than 1,000 missing persons inquiries and requests from Police Scotland; over the past two weeks, for example, we have received four requests for specialist search capability track side to look for evidence or missing people, and we supply that capability back into the system. It is, as I have said, a two-way process, and our analysis of the criminality and disruption on that particular line and in the north-east region is causing us to change our staff profile—not just the number of staff but the times that they work—in order to meet demand better.

Mairi Evans

I want to ask Mr Burnie in particular about the results of the staff survey that was carried out. How many staff members took part? I see that 37.5 per cent indicated their intention to leave, some through retirement but many in the expectation that they will be made redundant post transfer. Have you been given any indication that that is what will happen to those staff?

Alisdair Burnie

We believe that that will certainly be the case. We have already seen removal of, and redundancy among, Police Scotland staff, and we know about their low morale. Obviously we want no part of that, because we are safe and comfortable where we are. If we are transferred across, our salary will be on average £3,000 less; we do not know where the posts will be; and the fact that police staff roles in Police Scotland vary regionally means that the same role can be paid differently and have different conditions depending on where it is in Scotland. All of that is adding to our anxiety and to our conclusion that if we have the option to go elsewhere before then, we should do so.

Mairi Evans

Just for clarification, is it just your belief that these redundancies will take place, or have you been told as much by someone from Police Scotland or the Government? Similarly, is what you have said will happen to salaries your belief or something that you have been told is going to happen?

Alisdair Burnie

It is the case. We have checked it out.

Mairi Evans

With whom?

Alisdair Burnie

The TSSA with the respective Police Scotland—

The Convener

It would be helpful if you could provide more information on that to the committee, as it would allow us to move on. I have supplementaries from Liam McArthur and Douglas Ross, and if we have time, I will bring in John Finnie and Ben Macpherson.

Liam McArthur

I want to give Calum Steele an opportunity to come back on some questions. First, on the issue of confidence that Fulton MacGregor highlighted, I note that we have had similar expressions of confidence from the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland in the run-up to i6. Clearly what we need to do is to satisfy ourselves that such confidence is well founded.

On the issue of morale, which a number of witnesses have mentioned, I realise that any change process is difficult, and I note that the policing 2026 strategy raises the prospect of a reduction in the number of police officers. Can Calum Steele tell us what the impact on the morale of police officers in Police Scotland is likely to be if it is felt in the coming negotiations that, in order to facilitate this transfer, other officers will be coming in on more preferential terms and conditions?

My other question is for Mr Burnie, in particular. In the staff survey that has been referred to, upwards of 40 per cent have indicated that they might leave the service through one means or another. How disruptive would that be for maintaining any sort of service during a period of transition? As I have said, we all accept that any transition or change will be difficult, but the order of magnitude quoted in the staff survey would, I think, give rise to concerns for any organisation.

Calum Steele

I will get to Mr McArthur’s questions presently.

To some extent, I am going to slightly contradict what I said earlier about speaking about the terms and conditions of support staff—I suspect that there will be Unison colleagues watching the committee being broadcast who will be screaming at their television sets—but the harmonisation of support staff terms and conditions in the Police Service of Scotland has not yet taken place in a way that the service would expect. Rather than identifying that as a problem and something to be feared, I think that that shows that the TUPE principles under which staff came from the former forces into the Police Service of Scotland have been adhered to. Only those same principles could apply to police staff or support staff members coming from the British Transport Police Authority into the Police Service of Scotland, so the transfer will not result in a diminution in terms and conditions; under TUPE, it will result in the maintenance of what staff currently have, at least until such time as we come to a position of harmonisation in the future—no one can ever have what they have had in the past forever.

On the specific issue of the impact of the policing 2026 strategy on numbers and morale, there is a distinct difference between police officers and support staff when it comes to reductions in numbers and redundancy. Police officers—certainly those who hold the office of constable—cannot be made redundant. As such, any impact on the morale of those who are losing their job does not really exist; it can only be on those who are left and because people who have retired or have left through natural attrition have not been replaced. Self-evidently, there is a morale issue if the loss in numbers results in a reduction in capacity—on those who are left doing the work of the 400 or so, which is the figure that is floating around just now.

Liam McArthur

On that, if a deal is to be struck with the BTP that will allay the concerns that have been expressed today, that were expressed during the round-table meeting and that are in the written evidence that the committee has received, someone will have to claim success in protecting terms and conditions on BTP’s migration into Police Scotland. Against that backdrop and in the context of the debate around policing 2026, surely to goodness that will give rise to some degree of, if not resentment, at least questioning of why that debate is happening over here, with officers who are coming into the force being treated in one way, when there is a separate debate with Police Scotland officers that is happening in a very different and more difficult context.

Calum Steele

I do not agree. There is a fundamental difference between those who hold an office and those who are employed.

The one thing that, until now, probably has not been explored is what happens to those who are currently employed when they hold an office. Do they retain their entitlement to redundancy and some of the associated questions? I cannot see how that is possible. Whilst there are advantages to being an employee, there are also advantages to not being an employee and to holding an office. On that single particular issue, I do not think that the two are compatible.

There are efforts in the police service in England and Wales, where people are able to apply for a form of voluntary redundancy—although they do not call it that; I forget the terminology, and there is no help coming from my colleagues to my left—

Nigel Goodband

Is it A90?

Calum Steele

No—oh, it does not matter. Either way, redundancy in policing does not work.

We have deliberately not stepped into the natural territory of the British Transport Police Federation on this, but when or if we have these discussions, the maintenance of current terms and conditions should be quite easily secured, because we have secured some of the protections that would be expected—in respect of residency and the positions that apply under the terms of the transfer—for officers from the former forces, and it is only right and proper that the same thing should apply for Scotland.

The Convener

If his points are very brief, I can take Douglas Ross.

Douglas Ross

I will be brief, convener. I have two final points on the evidence that we have received.

First, I thought that the staff survey was interesting because while 37.5 per cent said that they were intent on leaving, the other 62.5 per cent did not give a ringing endorsement of remaining with the BTP when it comes into Police Scotland; they said—cautiously—that they intended to stay. We have considered the impact on morale, but I would like to ask the panel about the loss of not just morale but resources and experience that we in Scotland would suffer if the potential figures bear any resemblance to what actually happens in respect of a lack of officers coming forward.

I also have a specific question for Mr Steele, who mentioned transition. It is fair to say that he is more supportive of the plans than others on today’s panel, and I saw his tweet last week about how impressed he was by the evidence given by ACC Higgins, who mentioned the “luxury” of having two years to implement the changes.

Even with that “luxury” of two years, given the problems with creating a single force that the Scottish Police Federation and its members have expressed, the uncertainty in Police Scotland and the problems that it is still going through, with SPF members highlighting problems daily, is this the right time to be integrating BTP into Police Scotland?

13:00  



Calum Steele

I will be brief. On the specific question, that is a matter for Parliament and is something over which the Scottish Police Federation has little control.

It is important to deal with the question of support. The Scottish Police Federation remains neutral on that question—even now. In my evidence today I have highlighted some of the areas that could work and how the SPF and the service would approach them, but we have not taken—and would not take—a position on a body of employees who are not our members. That would be wholly inappropriate. We will get to that stage when Parliament makes a decision.

Douglas Ross

I was not casting aspersions on your evidence in general, Mr Steele.

The Convener

If there is anything that witnesses want to add or reflect on, the clerks will be happy to receive any clarifications or additional information.

Michael Hogg

Staff morale—for on-board, gateline and station staff—is at rock bottom and we are greatly concerned. We engage with our members up and down the country and they are greatly concerned about the implications of the transfer for the BTP. If there is any thought of taking away the British Transport Police officers from our railways, that would be a great cause for concern, because their knowledge and expertise are crucial to ensure that we have a safe railway.

Chief Superintendent McBride

The demographics show that within the division—if that is who will move across—there are in the region of 30 to 40 people who are approaching the end of their service, if I can put it like that, and who may choose to go. We have talked about the uncertainty, but if those people choose to go, we would be looking to fill their posts from within Police Scotland, which takes me back to the point that I made in my written submission about that specialism possibly taking a hit right away.

The Convener

That concludes our questions. I thank the witnesses for their very detailed and helpful evidence.

Douglas Ross

We heard some difference in opinion on crucial information that we received last week from ACC Higgins—some members and witnesses had concerns about training and others did not. Given that that is a vital aspect of BTP integration, can we ask for a full response from ACC Higgins on the intention as regards Police Scotland training for current and future officers joining a specialist railway division and for all 17,000 officers? We need a full and detailed analysis of that so that the witnesses who have raised concerns today and those others who believe the training to be sufficient have that information and so that members have it before we reach our conclusion.

The Convener

I agree. We will ask Mr Higgins for that information.

That concludes today’s meeting. Our next meeting will be on 21 March and the main item of business will be further evidence on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

Meeting closed at 13:04.  



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Third meeting transcript

The Convener

Item 2 is our third evidence session on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. I refer members to paper 1, which is a note by the clerk; paper 2, which is a Scottish Parliament information centre paper; and the written submissions that some of the witnesses have provided. I thank TransPennine Express and CrossCountry for their submissions.

I welcome our first panel: Andrew Cooper, who is managing director of CrossCountry; Neil Curtis, who is head of compliance at Direct Rail Services Ltd; David Lister, who is sustainability and safety assurance director with ScotRail Alliance; Graham Meiklejohn, who is regional development manager for TransPennine Express; and Darren Horley, who is commercial and operations strategy manager for Virgin Trains.

Thank you all for attending. I hope that you did not have any difficulty getting here this morning, despite the adverse weather conditions. We go straight to questions from members.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

My question is general and open, but I think that it will lead to other questions. Is it correct to say that the rail operating companies that you represent have two interests in the future of policing on our railway network—first, that policing is an effective service that meets the security needs on the network and, secondly, that it needs to be delivered at an appropriate price, given that the companies have a commercial relationship with the police? Do you have concerns on either of those points?

I am sure that that question will enable other members to raise issues. If panel members answer from right to left, that should be good enough.

Andrew Cooper (CrossCountry)

I thank the committee for the opportunity to attend this morning. It is right to say that there is a commercial relationship and that the price therefore matters. We are running a business, and at present we have very clear relationships with the police service. As you say, the service needs to be effective. In handling the railway when it does not work effectively, whatever the cause of disruption, we sometimes have to call on the services of the police. All the national passenger survey tracking research that is done every year shows that our effectiveness in handling delays and problems in operating the railway is an absolute priority for our customers.

Neil Curtis (Direct Rail Services Ltd)

The same applies to Direct Rail Services. The commercial aspect is important; we need to ensure that we receive value for money from the services that are provided. As a freight operating company, we require to work throughout the country, and not just through franchises from station to station. We therefore have different requirements of the British Transport Police not only in the general day-to-day services that are provided, but when things start to go wrong, as Andrew Cooper mentioned. It is highly important for our organisation to ensure that we have that support as and when it is required and that our business needs, which in some instances are quite technical, are fully understood by the BTP.

Stewart Stevenson

Does DRS operate services outwith the Great Britain network across the English Channel and elsewhere in Europe? Other freight operators certainly do. We might come back to that point.

Neil Curtis

No. We are United Kingdom-bound.

Stewart Stevenson

In that case, I will not ask a supplementary question.

David Lister (ScotRail Alliance)

I thank the committee for the opportunity to give evidence. I represent ScotRail Alliance, which is a partnership in Scotland between Network Rail and Abellio ScotRail. In the policing of the railway, as has been mentioned, the importance of safety and security, and the need to ensure that we minimise any impact or disruption as a result of any crime or disorder, is paramount for both halves of the alliance. Equally, the commercial side is important for both halves, as the service provision is a commercial arrangement.

Graham Meiklejohn (TransPennine Express)

Good morning. We fully agree with the comments that have been made on the importance of the service that is provided, the significant reassurance that it gives to passengers on the network and the need for operational support when things go wrong in order to recover the situation and get trains running again as they should be.

It is imperative to say that, across the network that we operate, the BTP is an integral partner to the delivery of our operations and is seen to be connected with all operators in seamlessly delivering a service to the travelling public. As a cross-border operator that is based in the north of England and connects to Lockerbie, Glasgow and Edinburgh, TransPennine Express works with a lot of BTP officers who began their careers in Cowcaddens in Glasgow, went to Manchester and ultimately transferred back north of the border. They have enjoyed a definite career progression so far. In day-to-day service delivery, we see, and obviously benefit from, their skill set and knowledge of the network across the north and into Scotland.

Darren Horley (Virgin Trains)

Good morning. As members will appreciate, Virgin’s network runs from London right through to Scotland, so we enjoy the fact that the BTP operates throughout the country. The relationship is a commercial one; it is a partnering relationship rather than a partnership. We want that continuity to be maintained throughout our operations. First and foremost, the railway is safe—the BTP plays a role in that, and we want continuity in that regard.

On business needs, we want reassurance that, first and foremost, our customers are safe, that staff are safe at stations and that the approach is commercially effective for the railway. As my colleagues have pointed out with regard to the commercial operations, it is imperative that a participating force causes minimal disruption.

Stewart Stevenson

You made a distinction between partnership and partnering that I do not fully understand. Will you explain it to me, please?

Darren Horley

In a partnership, things tend to be run jointly. In a partnering relationship, things are done together, people have the same outputs and goals, and the outcomes are shared. We have a partnering relationship in that the police know our common goals, joint focus and strategies.

Stewart Stevenson

Is that similar to the Abellio-Network Rail partnering? Is it a similar idea?

Darren Horley

It is indeed.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Good morning. The Scottish Government’s policy is to provide railway policing agreements between the industry and the police in Scotland that will replace the current police service agreements. Do you have any particular concerns about the Government’s proposals in that regard?

Andrew Cooper

The agreements will be slightly different from the current arrangement in which we deal with a police force that serves the railway exclusively. When we agree a contract with a body that has much broader policing requirements, an added complexity is that we need to be much more confident about things that have been set down as stated commitments in most of the paperwork that I have seen. We will need to be assured through the contract that those commitments will be delivered. The arrangement will be subtly different from our current arrangement with the British Transport Police, simply because we will be contracting with a body that intends to have the specialism but will not be dedicated to serving the railway.

Rona Mackay

What specific differences do you mean?

Andrew Cooper

At present, when we sign an agreement with the British Transport Police Authority, we know that its interests are exclusively in the railway. That body was set up by the Department for Transport, and the alignment of its objectives with the industry’s objectives is currently better than I have ever seen it in my railway career. That is a very strong position. It will be hard for Police Scotland to put itself in that position because it has much broader obligations in respect of policing in Scotland. We would need to be much more confident—and therefore probably much more prescriptive—in any agreements that we have with Police Scotland compared with what we have with the dedicated force that is the British Transport Police.

Rona Mackay

Police Scotland has given us reassurances that it will treat the service as a specialist one that will not be compromised—you will appreciate that we have heard its evidence on that point. Does anyone else on the panel have a view on that?

Darren Horley

Our focus is on ensuring that the BTP continues to play the same critical role in keeping the travelling public and our staff safe. If Police Scotland honours that commitment when it takes over, and if it guarantees us the same level of service that we enjoy from the British Transport Police—the Minister for Transport and the Islands has said that he will give those written reassurances, which we will give to staff—we have no objections to the reforms. However, we need reassurance on the points that Andrew Cooper highlighted.

Neil Curtis

As a freight operating company, our requirements are distinctly different from those of the passenger companies, which operate mainly through stations and main lines. We operate throughout the UK, and on some branch lines we are the only operator. As my colleagues have said, we fully support the changes, but we need a guarantee that the current service will be maintained—or improved, if possible, as that would be the best way to go.

Graham Meiklejohn

The minister has been generous so far in giving us time to consider the issues. Some of the views have evolved, especially on issues that affect operations south of the border. As I mentioned, TransPennine Express is based predominantly in the north of England, and we are concerned about what will happen when trains cross the border from one force to another. At present there is a degree of co-operation, and we have been reassured that that will definitely continue in the future.

In our written evidence, we suggested that some sort of agreement between the force in Scotland and the BTP south of the border would be a wise path to take in order to ensure continuity and co-operation from day 1, with no issues or risk of misunderstandings as our services pass to and fro over the border. Given where we started in our early discussions with the minister, it is good that that has been understood and taken on board by officials.

Rona Mackay

That is encouraging.

The Convener

I want to find out a little more about the railway policing agreements. We have heard today, and in other evidence, a concern that Police Scotland will take over the railway function, whereas the emphasis previously has been more on the railway transport side. I think that ScotRail Alliance suggested that a way around that might be to consider setting up a specialist board. Can David Lister comment on that?

10:00  



David Lister

In the submission from ScotRail we discussed the creation of a specialist board. The bill proposes a management forum, which is not quite the same as a board, although it is a move in that direction. It is encouraging that some of our requests have made their way into the proposed legislation.

On railway policing agreements and police service agreements, I believe that the Rail Delivery Group has given evidence on the existing police service agreements. Those agreements are currently under discussion in the UK, and the idea of improving them is viewed as desirable. It is important that, when the railway agreements are put in place, it is not assumed that they should simply adopt exactly the same style that is applied to the existing police service agreements.

On governance, an important aspect to consider is the need to ensure that railway priorities are kept as part of the overall standards for Police Scotland. That is really important for us as a railway industry, and the establishment of a management forum will be a good start. However, we are conscious that the BPTA’s governance is focused entirely on policing the railway, whereas Police Scotland will see railway policing as a relatively small aspect of its policing more widely. We have been reassured that the Scottish Police Authority is looking to get some railway experience on its board, which will be really important if we are to ensure that railway interests are considered by not only the dedicated railway police management but the SPA.

The Convener

We are led to believe that that is really important because having an understanding of the railway and of the problems that can arise on it is germane to the policing of the railway and to minimising disruptions. Could you elaborate that side of things? That point has been coming through, and we would be interested to hear your views.

David Lister

It is really important for the industry to ensure that there is minimal disruption and that our staff and the travelling public remain confident in the services that are provided. The British Transport Police specialism enables it to strike an appropriate balance—which it does very effectively—between the needs of investigating crime, managing incidents, looking to the needs of the public to travel and getting the network back into operation as quickly as possible. That might involve responding to a bomb threat and making the appropriate threat assessment so that officers can balance the risks, or dealing with a fatality. The BTP is able to strike that balance very effectively.

As has already been said, we have had good engagement with the Minister for Transport and the Islands, the BTP and Police Scotland in relation to the proposals, and we are getting reassurances that that specialism will be maintained. That is clearly important to our industry.

Andrew Cooper

In paragraph 9 of my written evidence, I commented:

“Whilst the BTP naturally has a thorough understanding of its duties and obligations to police independently, it balances this with its role as a service funded directly by the railway industry.”

As my colleague has said, the approach that officers take when they are dealing with issues on the railway is often based on experience, knowledge and lots of empirical data, which enables them to make a risk assessment of the situation that faces them. It is a controlled environment, in a sense: they know what they are looking for on the railway, and they know what the likely externalities are, which is not always the case on the high street, for example. BTP officers are therefore able to take decisions in the best interests of the railway and of passengers, taking into account the wider implications of those decisions. That is not always the case in our experience—as an organisation that runs a network across the whole country—of dealing with Home Office forces in England.

There is a distinction to be drawn between a force that contains a specialism—with 17,000 officers in Police Scotland, it is not easy to see how that specialism could be widespread—and a dedicated force with an ethos and approach to policing the railway that is in the best interests of ensuring that passengers and the public are safe and that there are no unintended consequences of its actions.

Darren Horley

I echo what my colleague Andrew Cooper says. First and foremost, the BTP is funded by the industry through the fare-paying passenger, and its specialism is managing incidents on the rail network, which are very different from those on the high street. Recently, I experienced an incident in the Lockerbie area in which the civil police attended a suicide. I appreciate that complicated matters were involved, but I was concerned about how my driver was treated: he was taken off site and questioned as if he was to blame, although he was a victim in the incident. That questioning process was very different from the way in which the BTP would have handled such an incident. There is a lot of nervousness among our staff about how they would be treated in such instances, and it is critical for us as a business to be able to reassure our staff and passengers in that respect.

Neil Curtis

I have a couple of concerns. Cross-border transfers going both north and south have been mentioned. The BTP is a specialist force in the rail industry, and the industry terminology can be quite complicated. I started in the industry in 1998 and thought that it was something new and bright—and I am still learning the terminology.

One concern that I have—we have been given some reassurance that this will be looked at—relates to the education of Police Scotland officers who may not have asked to attend an incident such as the one that Darren Horley mentioned. It concerns me that there might be misunderstandings involving not only the terminology but the rail industry in its entirety, because it is complex in some ways. Officers may come across things that would never be seen on normal highways or in public areas in general policing. The industry has to be fully understood—it is not simple. Policing the railways is one thing and policing the highways is another. The complexity of the railways is quite something to understand.

The Convener

Can you give any examples of terminology that might cause a problem? If not, you can provide us with that information later.

Neil Curtis

It would be track terminology—people who work on the railways would use terms such as “the four foot” as normal discussion points. That kind of thing could lead to a misunderstanding that might put officers at risk. It is one thing if an incident occurs, but we do not want to escalate a problem so it becomes worse than it already is. On the railways, there are some 125 mph lines with big trains that do not stop very quickly—it takes a mile or so for some of the bigger trains to stop—which makes for a very dangerous environment.

Darren Horley

I have one example that is quite local to me. In the north of the West Midlands, there is a railway junction called Wichnor, but the village of Wychnor is nearly 15 miles—quite a distance—away. The terminology means that the system is quite complex for people to get their heads around. Such issues may lead to questions later at the control centre. We have concerns about that.

The Convener

John Finnie will ask a supplementary before I bring in Douglas Ross and Liam McArthur.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, panel—thank you for your evidence. I want to pick up on Neil Curtis’s comment about the potential for the railway policing arrangements to be improved as a result of the change. Andrew Cooper spoke about the extent to which the specialism would be widespread.

My question is for David Lister and Neil Curtis in particular. I represent the Highlands and Islands region—I would not ordinarily put that on the record, but I think that the chief constable of the BTP did so at a previous meeting. Five BTP officers cover that area, where—I have been trying to do my sums—they have about 300 or 400 miles of track. Within the area, there are several hundred Police Scotland officers, dozens of detectives, dogs and all the rest. The potential exists to enhance the policing arrangements, given that the current reality in many instances is that it will not be a BTP officer who attends an incident. Would you agree with that?

Neil Curtis

It happens. Mutual aid occurs among the policing authorities within the UK anyway—it is a requirement under the Police Act 1996. We know that if we have an incident in certain locations, there is a good chance that a Police Scotland officer will turn up and deal with it.

David Lister

I concur with that. It happens today, and, as the forces become integrated, that integration could assist with that element of the response.

Darren Horley

I concur with those statements. Let us not be mistaken—this is an opportunity for more coverage, but we have just gone through some questions and answers about the expertise that those officers will have when they step foot into the railway environment. That is what is most critical. From a Virgin Trains point of view, it is an opportunity. We want to get it right, but it is about the right expertise and the right training for these guys.

Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I have a question for Mr Cooper. You say in your written evidence that you held discussions with the Scottish Government’s police division back in 2013. Were there moves by the Scottish Government to change the BTP in Scotland at that time and, if so, what were the plans?

Andrew Cooper

I think that it was a proposition, and the Scottish Government approached us and asked for our views, which we were very happy to give. The Scottish Government was consulting more widely at that time, but informally and not in the way that happened more recently. The Scottish Government asked for our view and we gave it.

Douglas Ross

You say in your written evidence that you sent back a very comprehensive response in October 2013. Would it be fair to say that, at that time, you were not convinced about merging the BTP D division with Police Scotland—a single force that had started only earlier on that year? My question is whether you warned the Government against that move.

Andrew Cooper

The view that I expressed when I was approached was that it seemed quite a brave step to take, as it was not policy at the time but only being considered.

The operational concerns and other issues that surrounded the proposition have been explained by a number of the people who have submitted evidence. It seemed to us that there was not a particularly strong case for making a change at that time. The three benefits that are now put forward as a reason for the policy decision that has been taken were not being discussed at the time.

Douglas Ross

It is useful to get that on the record. During this debate, the committee has often heard that we are now looking to integrate the BTP into Police Scotland because the Smith commission devolved the powers to allow the Scottish Government to do so. It seems that there was an earlier move towards that policy.

I will ask another question specifically about your evidence, but I would appreciate comments from other panel members, too. At paragraph 15 of your submission, you say:

“As an operator, it feels right to be concerned that the transfer of part of the BTP to Police Scotland in a period when that Force has its own significant challenges to meet, presents a new risk to railway policing.”

How do you compare your evidence to the evidence that the committee received from Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins of Police Scotland, who said that he felt that it was a “luxury” to have two years to prepare for the move? Do you think that it is a luxury that we have two years to prepare, or will you continue to have your concerns about merging the BTP into Police Scotland?

Andrew Cooper

I think that it comes back to the issue of stated intentions and what we really mean by assurance. In business life, I would normally expect such a significant change to be accompanied by a proper impact assessment of the likely consequences, including any unintended consequences.

There is a comment in the paperwork that has been shared that suggests that changing cap badges and the sticker on the side of the police vehicle is all that is required to get things going. When we are establishing a new franchise, having been awarded one—which we were, in my case, back in 2007—there is a four or five-month period of mobilisation, which involves an awful lot of things that have to be ready for day 1 of the transfer. In what I have been able to read, I have not seen much evidence that that sort of mobilisation plan is there. There does not appear to be consideration of the issues that are really important in ensuring that, whenever day 1 comes, it is a seamless event. As an operator, that is the sort of thing that gives me some concern.

The subordinate legislation is obviously important—that is the way that things are structured. However, a lot of the things that people want to work through have not been worked through at this stage and must therefore remain as stated intentions. I am sure that they are given in good faith and are based on experience, but they are not proven yet.

10:15  



David Lister

I agree with Mr Cooper about putting plans and preparations in place to achieve that. Two years is certainly an achievable timeframe, but significant work needs to be done now to ensure that the appropriate planning, mobilisation and risk management measures are in place.

At a recent meeting with the minister, Transport Scotland, the British Transport Police Authority and the Scottish Police Authority, there was discussion of the work activities that are taking place and the desire to get the industry involved in many of those workstreams. We see the starting process happening for that, but it is at an early stage and it is important that that work continues and that the industry is heavily involved in it.

Graham Meiklejohn

What the industry does from a mobilisation viewpoint is a good case in point. The BTPA is currently involved in that when services move from one operator to another, as there may be some changes in the relationship with the incoming franchise. Since April last year, TransPennine Express’s relationship with the police has been far closer than the relationship that we had before then, given how we are working with them. Over a two-year period, there is an opportunity to ensure that all the planning and assessments that we would do over a couple of months during mobilisation can be delivered. However, the ultimate imperative—the ultimate test—is to ensure, just as we are remitted to do, that on day 1, when change happens, the customer or passenger sees no difference and everything continues as normal. Of course, we hope that there will ultimately be an enhancement, but there should be no impact on the day-to-day operations or security of the railway.

Neil Curtis

Two years breaks down into 104 weeks at work. Having worked on various other projects, I know that that is not a long period of time to ensure that we have a plan in place. As Andrew Cooper mentioned, we need to plan ahead of time and, as has been mentioned at a couple of the workshops, the operators need to follow a management of change process and to review and identify risks. We need to look at the dispositions between the BTP roles and Police Scotland roles, and at the key actions that need to be understood fully to ensure that that one little bit that is actually a key operational practice done by one officer or a couple of officers does not suddenly get missed because it is not considered important. Failure at that point could be quite dramatic, and we all know how businesses across the country could be affected if one item suddenly fails. I remind the committee that two years is not a long period of time in anybody’s business. Things can change very quickly, and I encourage anyone involved in reviewing the process to ensure that they have looked at the risks associated with the transfer and at the dispositions between the BTP and Police Scotland, and that the process is fully charted and recorded. We are willing to be involved in that process and have offered our services in ensuring that a suitable process is taken forward. I hope that that gives you a bit of an insight.

Douglas Ross

Mr Lister, I want to ask about the reference in your written submission to a fatality at Carluke station, just to get it on the record, given some of the discussions that we have had about BTP officers perhaps not being first on the scene or working alongside officers from Police Scotland. Your evidence states that the fatality was deemed a suicide by BTP officers in 73 minutes, and that the railway could therefore be reopened, but that the conventional Police Scotland force wished to continue investigations, which meant that the railway was closed for a further 107 minutes. Could you give us more detail on that example?

David Lister

You are correct to ask about the details of that incident. Because the initial response was from Police Scotland and a different approach was taken to the investigation of the incident, the railway was shut for a protracted period of time.

As you are aware, disruption to the network—particularly the main lines—has an impact not just in Scotland but all the way down to London. The overall impact across the railway becomes significant, leading to the disruption of many passenger journeys and costs to the industry as well as to wider society. In discussions that we have had with Police Scotland, the BTP and Transport Scotland, Police Scotland has recognised the specialism and expertise that the BTP has in the area and the fact that its best practice could be transferred to Police Scotland. If that happened, it would be encouraging, because that wider benefit could be delivered not just in the railway industry. It is extremely important for us to ensure that the response takes a balanced view on that.

Douglas Ross

In the example that you gave, was suicide the confirmed outcome?

David Lister indicated agreement.

Douglas Ross

The BTP officers were therefore correct in their assumption after 73 minutes, and the further delay by Police Scotland resulted in a delay of 760 minutes to the entire rail network, causing costs of approximately £160,000. For the record, you are saying that the correct outcome was established earlier by BTP officers.

I want to ask you specifically about governance. You talked about the SPA having a dedicated transport person on its board. Would you have serious concerns if the SPA were unable to recruit someone to that position? There are currently two vacancies, and it is looking to fill that position. Are you concerned that, if it could not fill that vacancy with someone with a transport background or if, at any point, the person with a transport background was unable to attend the board or unable to be a member of the SPA, decisions could be made without someone with a transport background being there?

My final question is about training, and it is for the entire panel. We heard from ACC Higgins and Police Scotland about its training proposals for the new officers who are coming in, for a specialist group and for all 17,000-odd police officers. Are you reassured by those training proposals? I am concerned that the training is just a couple of weeks added on at the end, but other members think that that is sufficient. On the basis of the evidence that you have received—we are seeking further evidence from Police Scotland—are you satisfied that there will be sufficient training for officers and that they will have sufficient certification so that they can go on to the railway if required, or do you remain concerned about some aspects of the training that will be required for officers when the BTP is merged with Police Scotland?

David Lister

I will answer your first question, which was on governance, first. The key element is that, as the strategy for Police Scotland is developed, consideration is given in that strategy to railway policing. It is not for me to say exactly how that should be achieved. We have suggested that one mechanism would be to have that railway experience on the SPA board. The legislation talks about the management forum that will channel the railway input into the board. The key element for us is to ensure that there is serious consideration of the railway in the governance of Police Scotland, so that it is not a minor consideration but features in the overall strategy for Police Scotland.

Your second question was on training. The only detail of the training that I have seen so far is the evidence that was given to the committee. I understand that, as you say, it is to be an additional two weeks in the training of all Police Scotland officers, should the merger take place. I believe that, at the moment, three weeks of dedicated training is provided to BTP officers, which trains them both in the personal safety requirements and in the railway byelaws, fatality management and so on. There could be a benefit in enhancing the overall capability. As was talked about earlier, the most critical thing from the railway perspective is to ensure that people who access the railway follow the appropriate procedures and understand the risks that are associated with it.

Douglas Ross

I presume that it is important that there is not just two to three weeks of training when someone becomes a constable and is learning everything about policing; it is about on-going training so that people do not lose that specialist knowledge and the terminology.

David Lister

Yes.

Douglas Ross

There is a significant risk that, if we just tick a box and say that someone has had an extra three weeks’ training but they never do any railway policing for perhaps 20 years and are then called to an incident, they will not have any knowledge at all.

David Lister

We are interested in seeing the details of the proposal and the plan for the retention of skills. The current arrangement, which is industry-wide, is that the training is refreshed every two years. People cannot retain the competence if they never practise or are not retrained. We want to understand what the proposal is.

Neil Curtis

To add to David Lister’s point, continual training needs to be part and parcel of the training programme and cannot be ignored. As operators with staff who work on the railway, we are required to ensure that our staff are competent and suitable to carry out the duties. Two or three weeks, or whatever it is, of training is a good start, but it is only a start. It is not a completion of work. The approach has to take into account how often people will use that knowledge. Knowledge will wane, fade and disappear, so people need continual training. We have probation periods for people after they initially get a personal track safety certificate and other qualifications that allow them to access the railways. We do not allow people who have just got certification to go straight on the railway; they need to be escorted and managed. They need to gain knowledge through experience of walking there with an experienced person.

There is talk about the training, but it needs to be fully understood what that means. There also needs to be a recognition of what the rest of the industry is doing on track work as railway operators generally, and what we are required to do under the rules of the railways.

To go back to Douglas Ross’s first question, which was about having a recognised person on the SPA board, that is highly important because, otherwise, decisions could be made under assumption, and assumption can lead you down an expensive route of failure.

Andrew Cooper

Douglas Ross asked three questions, I think. On membership of the SPA board, he is right that it is important that somebody from the industry is there. If we are serious about the issue, it is beholden on us as an industry to ensure that people are available, whether they are volunteers from elsewhere or whether the industry produces some names from which the SPA can select. It is our duty to ensure that there is representation.

Mr Ross is right that the strategic decisions that the authority might take are important, but operational decisions at a lower level are important, too, and they will not be directly influenced by membership of the board. That really takes me on to Mr Ross’s third point. Core policing training is for 10 weeks, I think. For the BTP, we take people away and give them three weeks of training. We can give personal track safety certification in a couple of days. However, a couple of days for 17,000 officers—if that is what is proposed, which is how I read it—is quite a sum and a challenge, because those officers will have to be released for that training, just as they are released for the other things on which they need refresher training, such as firearms. That training is quite an obligation that will take people away from the coalface.

A dedicated force has people who are gaining experience over time by dealing with similar sorts of incidents. That is how experience and knowledge are gained of the approach to policing on the railway. Experience is gained simply by being dedicated to that all the time and by being with colleagues who are as well. There has to be a competence management system. For drivers of trains, we have a competence management system that takes account of the fact that drivers might drive for six months and not have any sort of incident at all. We put them through simulations and they take various exams and tests over a period of three years. We are required to have a competence management file for them, to ensure that they are fit to operate, that it is safe for them to do so and that they have the relevant knowledge and experience.

The police force as an employer, or the agents of the Crown, will have to make sure that there is a competence management system for the people who will be put in harm’s way on the railway. Those things can be developed, but they are not without cost. If the duties are to be spread throughout the force, as has been suggested, there will be a price tag attached, because there will be a need to release people from their day job to enable them to go through the stages of such a competence management system.

10:30  



The Convener

Do you have a supplementary on a particular point that has been raised, Mr Macpherson?

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

It is on a point that was raised earlier, convener.

In answer to Douglas Ross, David Lister talked about preliminary discussions with the Scottish Government and other relevant parties, and Graham Meiklejohn touched on the same issue in response to Rona Mackay. Have those discussions reassured you that the proposed engagement will give you a sufficient voice in the setting of railway policing priorities and objectives following integration, both in terms of mobilisation and moving forward from that, if that is the will of Parliament? I just want to be absolutely clear about that.

David Lister

As Mr Meiklejohn has indicated, the minister has been generous with his time. Since the middle of last year, there have been four meetings with the industry to talk through the process both before the drafting of the legislation and post the draft legislation’s publication, and those meetings have been an opportunity for us to raise any fears or concerns that we might have about the process and an opportunity for reassurances to be given. For example, there have been reassurances that the governance arrangements will take the industry’s views fully into account. However, going back to my earlier point about governance, I note that the one element that is not in the bill is in relation to railway representation on the Scottish Police Authority, and we would like that area to be strengthened.

Ben Macpherson

But overall, you are reassured by the level of engagement.

David Lister

That is correct.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I just want to follow up Douglas Ross’s line of questioning about training. A separate issue that has been raised with us is the extent of unease within the BTP; indeed, the witnesses last week told us about a recent staff survey in which about 40 per cent indicated that they were at least considering whether their future lies within the BTP.

I believe that Mr Horley said that this is about having a seamless transition from what is in place now to what will be in place in future. Does it concern you that such a significant cohort of existing BTP officers and staff are at least considering whether this is a transition that they want to make?

Darren Horley

It is a concern without a shadow of a doubt. My colleague Graham Meiklejohn talked earlier about the importance of police training and their own progression in the force, and it is critical for us to have a seamless force in place and to ensure that the training is of the same standard or better and that the officers involved are dedicated and do not see a demise to their future because of a change in their reporting lines.

Liam McArthur

Does the panel have a view on whether there is a certain critical mass in the BTP in terms of its expertise across a range of areas that would need to be retained at least for the foreseeable future and certainly through the early stages of transition to ensure a smooth transition?

Andrew Cooper

You make an interesting point, because I am less concerned about what happens after mobilisation and in years 1 and 2 after such a significant change than I am about what happens in years 3 and 4 and beyond. Everyone always has very firm and very well-held intentions at the start of these things, but a lot of other pressures can come to bear, and my concern is about where, after entering into this venture, we stand in three, four or five years’ time. The railways are a long-term business; franchises are reasonably lengthy, and we will want to be assured that these things will be there in future.

For more than 25 years now, I have been leading railway companies with various numbers of staff; at the moment, I have about 1,800 people. When you are dealing with people who mostly work as lone workers but as part of a team, issues to do with leadership, their belief, how they feel about work and whether they understand the plot—if I can put it that way—are of fundamental importance. It will be interesting to see the review report on the BTP by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland and Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in England and Wales. I believe that the review will find that leadership is one of the BTP’s strengths. I have personally known the past three chief constables. I have seen their work, which has brought the BTP to the position that it is in the moment—its alignment with the industry is the best that I have ever seen.

Given the strength of leadership that I witness, it is a concern to find that 40 per cent of the BTP officers in Scotland are very concerned about the transfer. Those people are well led, they understand the plot and they are committed to the job that they do, yet they have a concern. Therefore, as an operator who relies on them to provide the service that they are contracted to do, I am concerned.

Liam McArthur

You talked about a requirement for a greater level of specification in whatever the RPAs begin to look like. Given the two-year implementation timeframe that we are looking at, is it essential to have some of the detail mapped out sooner rather than later? The specific details of what might be in the RPAs will, presumably, guide the decisions that the SPA and Police Scotland will take at the point of and immediately after transfer.

Andrew Cooper

I think so. If there is a willingness between the two parties to reach agreement, it can easily be done in that timescale. The issue is about making sure that both parties understand the position and concerns of others, so that we can find that meeting of minds. Although I do not see that it would be impossible to do that, it is a greater challenge than if we were dealing with an organisation such as the British Transport Police, where, in a sense, it is a zero-sum game—we know that it looks after railways and we run railways—whereas Police Scotland faces many other pressures, some of which are illustrated in the “Policing 2026” strategy document, which I have read. Police Scotland is not without its own pressures and it must consider those properly, too, in fulfilling its duties, as it must when it enters into a contract with railway operators for police services.

Liam McArthur

What assurances have you had on that point? I noticed that, in earlier evidence, concerns were expressed about how the policing agreements operate, with a lack of clarity on what precisely is being paid for and what the costs are of that provision. You have pointed to the issues that the “Policing 2026” consultation is trying to grapple with and Police Scotland’s financial position is no great secret to anyone. Is there a concern that with the lack of precision on what is being paid for and what the cost structures are, aligned to the financial difficulties that Police Scotland is in, one could see an attempt to use the agreements as a way of bolstering finances in other parts of the organisation?

Andrew Cooper

I will make one small point and then give way. It would be very difficult to know whether that is the case. One could say that, but I am not saying that. Most of the issues that we have with the cost of BTP policing are usually about how we share out the costs between ourselves, as we know that it is a zero-sum game. We have had the retail prices index pricing promise. We have also talked about new expansions—that is, when territorial policing was set up a new way, when we decided to arm part of the British Transport Police force and changes because of counterterrorism and so on—where there has been additional cost. On aggregate, we have a good relationship and a good understanding of how we handle costs. When we argue, it is about the methods of proportioning costs. However, ceding railway policing to a much bigger organisation, with its own challenges, is a separate issue.

David Lister

My comment is similar. It is important to us that we have been given assurances that policing numbers would be retained and that any finance from the industry would be spent on railway policing and not in other areas, so it is important that the agreements give that transparency and that costs will be shared and known.

Liam McArthur

Given what has been said—and ACC Higgins has acknowledged the training requirement across the force—how robust is that? It is easy to see a situation where force-wide costs could come to be met—perhaps not in whole, but certainly in significant part—by the railway industry, and that the training requirement be brought about through the railway policing agreements that Police Scotland and SPA have signed with the railway operators.

David Lister

That would clearly need to be reviewed in detail. If there is a proposal on the costs to be apportioned to the industry, the industry would want to understand them and ensure that it is comfortable that they are allied to supporting the railway industry.

Liam McArthur

Are there particular issues on the freight side around transfer of staff and offices or how the contract may be structured?

Neil Curtis

You mentioned that 40 per cent of staff are questioning whether they want to remain in the BTP. Their leaving is a big risk. We have all mentioned the specialism that the BTP retains, so 40 per cent of the approximately 250 officers who would transfer to Police Scotland being lost would be a significant loss of skills. That risk needs to be identified as part and parcel of the process: loss of that skill set—wherever those staff go—will leave a 40 per cent reduction in staffing levels, so an increase in staff would be required, along with further training, to bring the number back up to the 250 that are needed to support the BTP specialism that has been identified. As a number of police officers and members have mentioned, it is key that we retain that number of people with that specialism in Scotland.

Our concern is this: if it is expected that that might happen, what are we doing to make sure that it does not happen? It would add to an ever-increasing bill; for example, further training is a cost and somebody has to pay for it, at the end of the day. The rail industry has to look at the situation and say, “The policing is currently there and we pay a levy to buy into that police force.” It seems to me that it is currently not fully understood how much policing will cost us.

Liam McArthur

Finally, I get the impression from what witnesses are saying that you take a fairly constructive attitude to the discussions; essentially, you need to make this work. Do you have anywhere else to go? Last week we heard from witnesses about a Dutch model, in which the route of bringing in private providers had been gone down. I presume that you do not think that that is a realistic proposition in this instance, and that whatever happens under the legislation must therefore be made to work.

Andrew Cooper

You are absolutely right. One should not form the view that we are not very concerned about transitional arrangements as the change goes forward. I have had discussions with the chief constable about our real concern that we need policing to continue in accordance with the current police service agreement. The BTP must satisfy that right up until 23:59. That is a concern now and there is concern about the implications of the situation for the future. Both issues are important to us.

Graham Meiklejohn

Various themes are emerging, but we cannot overstate the importance of the matters to do with people. We represent an industry that went through significant change a couple of decades ago, which had a profound impact on people who had built up their careers under British Rail. I think that the staff of the BTP today have similar issues. That is recognised in the 40 per cent figure that was cited.

There is an obligation to ensure that the fundamental people issues are addressed and taken into account in order to minimise the risk of people leaving the force unnecessarily. Going forward, we will look at both sides of the border. There is an opportunity for things to improve in Scotland and for the force in England and Wales then to up its game and improve, as well. Although we are obviously looking to protect what we have now, we can use contracts and relationships to have a greater overall effect, to improve efficiency and perhaps even to lower costs.

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

As has been stated, at the moment the industry has a commercial relationship with the British Transport Police: you pay an amount to the BTP and you know what you get in return for that. Can you say a bit about how you anticipate the costs will be split between what you will pay to the British Transport Police and what you will pay to Police Scotland under the proposed new system? Is it as simple as taking off a percentage amount? Andrew Cooper talked about the difficulty that the operator sometimes has in deciding what share should go to the BTP. Is that going to be challenging in the Scottish context? How will operators decide what share of their operations are carried out in Scotland? How much of a challenge is it going to be to divide the existing costs, and do you anticipate that the proposed model will be more expensive?

10:45  



Andrew Cooper

There are two stages. The BTP has advised us of the overheads and direct costs that are associated with D division; there is no dispute about what is spent by the BTP for policing in Scotland at the moment. Under the Smith commission’s review we should not see any worsening of that position as a result of change, so we know what the starting position is—those are the funds that will be available to Police Scotland. I agree that we will have to have a discussion about the individual railway policing agreements—as they are to be called—to decide how that cost will be shared between operators in Scotland.

Claire Baker

I accept what you have said, but it seems to be reasonable to anticipate that, if we are splitting in two a system that has savings and cost efficiencies built into it, the new system under Police Scotland will be more expensive. We have talked about concerns over areas such as capacity, specialism, the need for additional training and retirals. All that suggests that there will at least be some initial higher costs, if not on-going higher costs.

Andrew Cooper

There is every reason to believe that you are right. We know what the starting position is; it will be for Police Scotland, having taken on the responsibilities, to estimate the costs. The concern for operators that are not cross-border operators in the UK is that there are overheads that are covered by policing in Scotland that are attributed to the BTPA. That issue has to be tackled—there are overheads, and Police Scotland will no doubt in the future allocate some of its overheads to railway policing in Scotland. Equally, there are operators in England that will be left without cover from Scotland, as it were. Somebody will have to work that out.

I said in my submission that there will be funding to achieve devolution, the one-off costs of implementing it and then the on-going costs. We need to make sure that the transitional issues are also picked up. A discussion is needed with Police Scotland about whether it will be able, from the funds that will come its way, to meet the requirements that the industry places on railway policing at the moment. Evidence that I have read contains statements from people who believe that there will be some economies of scale, but I have also read in some of the strategy documents that Police Scotland already faces its own challenges. It is interesting to consider how it will provide a service to the railway that is both efficient and effective. That will undoubtedly be a challenge, as it always is.

Claire Baker

Does anybody else want to comment on the budgets or the anticipated costs of the new system?

Neil Curtis

We agree that the new system will probably cost money. As with any change, there will be benefits in the long term, but we are quite a way out from seeing those benefits. I would like there to be transparency while the costing models are being developed, so that we can fully understand where the costs are going. If there will be additional costs, we need to understand why so that we can reference that for the future. We also need to make sure that the initial payment does not start ramping up very quickly. We need that clarity and understanding.

Darren Horley

I echo what my colleagues have said. We expect transparency in the contract that we have for the franchise. The funding is set, and that is the funding that is available. Notwithstanding Police Scotland’s budgetary constraints, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, in respect of the RPAs that are set up and the board that the railway or transport representative will sit on as part of directing and allocating how funding is spent.

To pick up on a point that was made earlier, I say that it is quite simple to train people for a personal track-safety card, but it takes two days. It will be quite an expensive outlay for each officer to get a personal track-safety card—it will be critical to where our funding goes and on what it is focused.

David Lister

Commercially, the issue is very important for the rail operators. From a cost perspective, there are two areas in which there could be an impact for us. One is additional transitional project costs that may be involved: the Rail Delivery Group has made it clear that the industry does not expect to pick up costs that are associated with the project that is delivering the change. The other area is on-going costs once the change has occurred. It is encouraging to hear in relation to the overall proposals evidence to the effect that efficiency savings should be deliverable. If we can continue to deliver the safe and efficient service that we have today from the BTP, and efficiencies can be delivered, that will be received positively by the industry.

Claire Baker

Did you say that there is clarity around set-up costs and that you have made it clear that—

David Lister

I said that evidence that was submitted by the RDG indicated that the industry’s position is that the industry does not believe that it should be responsible for project costs associated with the proposal—in England and Wales or in Scotland.

Claire Baker

That has not been clarified or agreed yet, as far as you are aware.

David Lister

I have not heard any details around that question.

Claire Baker

That is helpful, thank you.

Darren Horley

It is expected that output findings from the RDG will be published around May.

The Convener

The RDG expressed quite a lot of concerns about this area, including concerns about lack of detail, the number of BTP staff to be deployed and the level of performance. The point that is being made is that some advance notice and some certainty are needed in order to enable budgeting. Can you comment further on that? Do you have any concerns about new contracts being negotiated between England and Wales and Scotland?

Andrew Cooper

The police service agreement that we have at the moment has a three-year notice period on it, which enables us to include such matters in our medium-term financial plans. I imagine that that period will be activated. That gives us time to put those issues into the process. That is how we will handle matters. As my colleague has mentioned, the transitional costs are a concern because, from the discussions that I have had on the RDG’s police and security committee, I am not aware that the BTP has funding for them; we certainly do not. It is something that has come to us, rather than its being part of our medium-term plan.

The Convener

In your submission, you suggest that a good notice period must be given in advance of new contracts, in particular. You say:

“Given the Notice period and attendant uncertainties, the proposal is unattractive to those with clear obligations and commercial responsibilities.”

Andrew Cooper

It is my view—no doubt we will take legal advice on the matter—that the change that is being proposed is sufficiently significant for notice to be given on the police service agreement that we hold with the BTP. There are issues for other operators that are not cross-border operators but which will be affected financially but not operationally, and will not require a second railway policing agreement with Police Scotland. They might be in a slightly different situation, but it will be for them to comment when they are faced with the challenge.

Stewart Stevenson

I have a tiny question, which requires a yes or no answer from one person, I think.

When a territorial force, rather than the BTP, attends an incident, is there a charge levied by the territorial force? I see people shaking their heads. We can move on, convener.

Mairi Evans (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

I had a question that would have followed on from the question that Claire Baker asked, about the potential for increased costs. I had wondered whether you had had any preliminary discussions about that with the Government or other bodies, but I gather from your previous answers that that has not been the case and that you were not aware of its being discussed at all. I see that the witnesses are agreeing that they were not aware, so I will move on to another question.

My next question is about the submission from the Rail Delivery Group. You have talked already about some of the main issues having been about funding for the different services that have been provided, and how that funding is allocated. Are there any other issues to do with the current PSA or any other problems? The Rail Delivery Group talked about the lack of any detailed description of the service that is to be provided to the operators by the supplier.

Andrew Cooper

Without being flippant, I would say that it would be possible to improve the details of many contracts that we hold with all sorts of bodies. We are talking about a supplier that supplies the rail industry for the most part, although it has other small contracts.

The best contracts are those that we do not take out of the cupboard. The relationship that we have, the alignment of objectives and the discussions that we have in the RDG’s policing and security sub-group, which involves the BTP, make it easier to leave that contract in the cupboard. I do not have to refer to the contract other than at budget time, when clearly everyone is under pressure—hence the pricing promise, which has eased some of the pressure in recent years, because we have had a long-term commitment to keep increases within the retail prices index. The BTP has done that, despite pressures on it.

The relationship is not short term—it predates 2003—but the position over the past 15 years has been quite exceptional, particularly under the current leadership. We are in an extremely strong position, with an alignment of objectives that is stronger than I have ever seen in my railway career. If I had to get the contract out of the cupboard, I would really be quite concerned, because the working relationship and the financial commitments are strong and the operational links work well.

It has to be remembered that my staff are really the eyes and ears and the extended police force. They know that, because I have told them that for years. They provide a lot of the intelligence that enables the police to work efficiently and effectively. There is a very strong working relationship with a body that knows that its future depends on that relationship. Contracts can always be improved and people can always be pinned down, but the question is this: is the relationship really the one that is wanted? I am less concerned about a mature relationship such as I have described than I am about entering a contract with a new supplier that has other pressures.

Mairi Evans

Would anyone else like to comment on that?

Neil Curtis

Andrew Cooper alluded to the fact that a contract is best left in the cupboard, if we can operate in that way. It is only when things start to go wrong that we need to read certain things.

My concern is that we will need to maintain a contract with the England and Wales BTP and ensure that the consistent approach is maintained. We will need to ensure that—regardless of what country or part of the UK we sit in—we get a good, value-for-money service that provides what we understand to be a BTP service, and that problems on the network will be dealt with professionally whether they are in England and Wales or in Scotland. We need to be consistent on that. As with insurance policies, we can tick every box, but there is always the little writing at the bottom that will say what is excluded. We need to ensure that nothing is excluded.

David Lister

I echo Mr Cooper’s and Mr Curtis’s comments. The RDG note captures the key elements of the development that is needed in the current PSAs or the railway policing agreements. I concur that we would want positive relationships so that the contract is less of an issue.

One area that we are looking to enhance and develop is that it must be ensured that, if changes occur such that costs go up or down, people get together to consider the impact of that and what changes could be made so that no surprises occur 12 months down the line. That is one of the key elements, for us.

Graham Meiklejohn

We have made comments on this in our submissions. The baseline would be that costs do not rise in Scotland or in England and Wales, but a process must be gone through. As colleagues have said, it would be a failure of this process if, in Scotland, we suddenly had different parts of the industry referring to contracts in order to move forward. Things should just work in practice. We are, fundamentally, eager to see that relationship with the BTP south of the border, because that relationship will deliver continuity across England, Wales and Scotland for all.

Darren Horley

I echo what my colleagues have said. The key things are transparency, consistency and fair allocation of costs. That seems to be a trend among witnesses.

Mairi Evans

I completely understand what the witnesses have said about what they would like to see, but are there any other specific improvements that could be made as part of a new agreement?

11:00  



Graham Meiklejohn

There is an opportunity for improved efficiency. We talked earlier about targets and how things are worked. We are not for a moment looking for competition to be introduced, but we need to have standards and agreements in Scotland and then to have comparable neighbouring standards in England and Wales. Operators such as TransPennine Express and Mr Curtis’s organisation, which operate over the west coast and east coast and out of Scotland, see an opportunity for high standards across the entire network to be delivered. That is operationally imperative in order to improve passengers’ overall experience of the railway, whether on journeys in Scotland only or for passengers using either of the Anglo-Scottish routes, and in order to make rail a more attractive mode of transport than private cars, flights or other choices.

Darren Horley

As I said earlier, we see the change as an opportunity for cross-fertilisation of best practice. If the merge happens, let us get it right. The rail industry should be involved from the outset. The minister has spent quite a bit of time with us, and we certainly have the opportunity to get it right. If any of us have to get the contract out, we will all have failed, to be honest.

Douglas Ross

A number of the witnesses, when answering the question about training, cited the cost and time involved in putting everyone through the PTSC process, which has to be renewed. How would you react if Police Scotland said that it was not going to do that?

Neil Curtis

We would be concerned.

Darren Horley

We would be very concerned.

Douglas Ross

So you expect that, when we get information back from Assistant Chief Constable Higgins, it will say that every police officer will get the training and that it will be continually upgraded. It is useful to get that on the record.

We have heard a lot about track policing, but I would also like to ask about how the BTP works on the trains. What are your concerns—or what benefits, if any, do you think there may be—with regard to policing in the station environment? How much consideration do you give to that? There might be differences to take into account. For example, with a single BTP force across the United Kingdom, we have Tasers being used in Scotland; indeed, all BTP officers can use them, whereas Police Scotland officers must first be firearms trained. What would happen if we had a different operating model for policing on our transport network in Scotland in which all officers routinely used Tasers, while just south of the border only BTP officers could do so?

Andrew Cooper

That is something that you would really need to ask British Transport Police and Police Scotland, because it is an operational matter for them. We take guidance from the police about the approach that they feel is necessary to deal with risks to the railway and its passengers and staff. Any view that I might express would not really be valid, as we take advice from the police on those professional issues. They are the ones who assess the risk, and we respond to that.

Douglas Ross

Ensuring optimum security within the station, where your clients come in and out, must be an important issue for you.

Andrew Cooper

Absolutely, yes.

David Lister

As the BTP’s role is important in providing reassurance to our staff and the travelling public, it is critical for us to maintain that as we go forward. We want to ensure that the police have the appropriate means to deal with the threats that they are faced with, but the police themselves are the experts in determining what those appropriate means are. There are some opportunities for enhancing security at larger stations outwith the central belt, where the wider Police Scotland team can give some support and provide reassurance to staff and the travelling public by responding earlier to incidents. That is one potential opportunity.

Douglas Ross

I presume that that is happening just now, too. BTP officers are not routinely seen at Elgin train station, but I have seen the police there. I have called ahead to the police because of an incident on a train, and they met the people at the station, so that working relationship is already in place.

David Lister

Absolutely, but being part of one force can strengthen that element. There is the risk of abstracting police officers from police stations on the railway in order to respond to an incident. We would want to monitor that area to ensure that railway policing is there for the railway and that officers are not being routinely abstracted for other areas.

Darren Horley

As far as our operation is concerned, we serve quite large conurbations on our network around, for example, Manchester Piccadilly, Edinburgh, Scotland and London. A lot of it is about—here is that key word again—reassurance. The question certainly needs to be directed at the BTP, but this is all about mitigation and visibility, which form part of the reassurance that can be given in our stations. We take guidance from the BTP on the forces and measures that it would like to use, but it all comes back to giving reassurance to passengers and staff and mitigating events that happen in stations and on trains.

Douglas Ross

I want to ask about concerns about the control and command element that were expressed by the BTP and, I think, by the BTPA. Given Police Scotland’s continuing information technology problems, what are your overall thoughts at the moment about that element of any potential merger?

Neil Curtis

The IT needs to be fully understood and agreed to. Systems that are going to be relied on need to be robust and suitable in order to fulfil the need for command and control. It is quite clear how the command and control set-up would work for emergency and business continuity plans; the police are expert on that subject matter and lead on it. We just need to ensure that when the police need to invoke something, it is suitable and practical and can be achieved with the systems that they have and the number of police that they can draw on in order to deal with any incident that needs the command and control structure to be in place at any given time in any given location in the UK.

Douglas Ross

Audit Scotland has raised significant concerns about the failed i6 project and the Scottish Government has overseen a number of questionable IT processes across the board, whether that be for Police Scotland, the national health service or for the agriculture sector and the common agriculture policy.

John Finnie

That is shocking.

The Convener

You really need to come to your point, Mr Ross.

Douglas Ross

Some Scottish National Party members do not like me saying this on the record, but there is palpable concern in communities about issues around implementing information and communications technology systems in Scotland. Is it a concern for you as operators that your good working system will be merged with a system that is currently not fit for purpose?

Andrew Cooper

The point about command and control is essential. A couple of times this morning, people have talked about Police Scotland’s current response to a railway incident, but that position is not going to change in future. At ground level across the United Kingdom, Home Office forces and Police Scotland respond to incidents, as indeed does British Transport Police if it happens to be in the vicinity when there is an issue off the railway. There will actually be no change in that respect at a working level.

We know that that is because of the command and control structure. If a Home Office officer is not quite dealing with an issue in the way that we might have thought, that is because a BTP sergeant or inspector is there, taking control of the situation, providing advice and so on. That happens because there is a dedicated railway control. At the moment, the BTP has two such controls: one that deals with London and the south-east—for obvious reasons—and another in Birmingham that deals with the rest of the country.

As it happens, that control is just across the road from my team. While they are looking after vehicles, policemen and so on, we are looking after trains and passengers, but it is a very close map. When my staff call for assistance and the call goes through to the BTP, there is a single control room where people know what is going on and can respond accordingly. If they need to call on the services of Home Office forces, they do so. That is very clear and it gives confidence to people in the front line and to our control team that the arrangement works.

We need to make sure that that is replicated. The IT and all the other things that support it are important. All I can say is that things are working okay as they are at the moment, but there might be challenges elsewhere. My personal concern is that, despite the merger, Police Scotland still has four control offices. I understand that that number is coming down to three, but I just wonder what will happen when my staff call for assistance. How will we work out whether the call has gone through to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Motherwell? Will somebody take the lead? Will the message be passed on?

That seems a little unclear at the moment—although that might be expected, given that we have not yet gone into that level of detail. However, the point is that we will have three control offices for Scotland and one for the rest of our operations in England and Wales. If we stand back and look at it, we see that the situation does not look as straightforward as it might be when things settle down.

Douglas Ross

We also, as some of the BTP officials here last week pointed out, have eight legacy forces that do not even speak to one another at the moment.

The Convener

The issues that have been raised relate to jurisdictional matters and the lack of explicit provision in the bill to provide clarity on where specific powers lie. Mr Horley, do you want to add something on that line of questioning?

Darren Horley

Going back to the point about control centres, they are a key concern not just for my members of staff who pick up the telephone to call for support from an officer but for staff on our services who will help the BTP. We have the well-publicised 6106 number that passengers can call for assistance, but we have concerns about which control centre those calls will go to and how they will be managed.

I echo my colleague Andy Cooper’s concerns. My office in Birmingham is just across the road from the British Transport Police control centre. To repeat the good analogy that was used, I would say that we are very closely mapped.

David Lister

Control is clearly critical for us all. We have raised the issue to ensure that the workstream that looks at that area deals with any risks, but another aspect that must be considered is training in railway matters for the control staff. We have talked a bit about the ethos of the British Transport Police in responding to incidents; that ethos needs to be understood by the people who direct or control information on incidents, because what might be deemed as a low-level crime by the Home Office forces could actually be extremely disruptive or cause problems for our staff or the travelling public. We need to ensure that there is an understanding of the importance of particular crimes in the rail industry.

John Finnie

Many of us are concerned about the constant talking down of Police Scotland. We heard not only from ACC Higgins but from the chief constable of the BTP—on, I think, two occasions—and from Mr McBride, the senior BTP police officer in Scotland, about very good on-going relationships between Police Scotland and the BTP. Of course, there are elsewhere in the UK 44 relationships, what with the 43 Home Office forces, but we will move to a situation in which there is only one control in Scotland.

We have heard from Police Scotland and the BTP that the transport network is a key component of the infrastructure of the country and, accordingly, there is a terrorist threat. We have alluded to Taser deployment; that was discussed with all the political parties in the Parliament before it was brought in, and I presume that there was also a discussion about it with the rail operating companies. Am I correct that on-going discussions take place with the rail operating companies?

Andrew Cooper

When there is a strategic change such as the implementation of armed capability or the deployment of Tasers, we are consulted on that, as we were in the example that you have highlighted.

The Convener

I was about to conclude the session, but I see that Fulton MacGregor has a question. Very briefly, Mr MacGregor.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

I apologise for being a wee bit late. The panel, particularly David Lister, will be glad to know that ScotRail was fine on my line, but the road network ground to a halt with the snow in the west.

I have a couple of points, convener, but I will keep them brief.

The Convener

You will need to be very brief, because we are over time.

Fulton MacGregor

Some witnesses have mentioned opportunities. Would anybody like to expand on what those opportunities could be? Are we talking about a Scotland-specific situation? How could you get involved in that?

Darren Horley

I have referred to the opportunity to build further relationships and to have cross-fertilisation of training and best practice. If, as Mr Finnie has suggested, the force—a BTP force, a rail division force or whatever it might be—is going to be further enhanced, best practice should perhaps be shared with that part of the current BTP that will be left in England and Wales. There is an opportunity to work with us on getting that and the new structure right, should the bill be passed.

The Convener

Those points were covered in earlier evidence, when we looked at some of the positives. Fulton, is there anything that you think has not been covered that you want to ask about?

Fulton MacGregor

No, thanks. I am okay.

The Convener

I thank all witnesses very much for attending today and for their very worthwhile evidence. I suspend briefly to allow for a change of witnesses.

11:15 Meeting suspended.  



11:20 On resuming—  



The Convener

I welcome our next witness on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, who is Dan Moore, deputy director for rail markets strategy at the UK Department for Transport. I invite questions from members.

Rona Mackay

Good morning, Mr Moore. Can you give us a general update on the work of the joint programme board? What issues have been discussed at meetings so far? Where are we with the work?

Dan Moore (Department for Transport)

First, I give a substantial thank you for the invitation to be here today. This is a really important programme. You have heard a lot this morning about the value of the British Transport Police, and we are committed to ensuring an orderly and sensible transfer, should the Scottish Parliament decide to go ahead with the legislation before it.

I will say one or two words on the JPB and give you a general update on where we are. The JPB is a manifestation of how important it is to the department that the process is managed in an orderly way. We have tried to work in genuine partnership and collaboration with the Scottish Government and with a range of parties, such as the authorities and forces, to have an open dialogue at the joint programme board.

A range of issues has been raised on an on-going basis. Early in the process, we decided that a lot of the JPB’s work would be effected through a number of individual workstreams that cover the full range of transition issues from the really important people questions to the financial questions on assets and liabilities. Those workstreams have been up and running for some time.

The JPB has met on seven or eight occasions, so the process is fairly advanced. Quite a lot of the initial meetings were about setting things up and about legislative questions, particularly as the Scotland Bill was becoming an act of the UK Parliament. The critical question now for the JPB across all the workstreams that I mentioned—I am happy to talk in more detail about any of them—is that we have fully flushed out all the issues, so that we can plan and identify them in the right way. I emphasise that it is a complicated and difficult challenge to make that work in the right way. By the next JPB meeting in a week’s time, we will have tried to ensure that all the issues across the various workstreams have been identified.

It may be helpful if I give an example of one particular area as an illustration of where we are. I cannot emphasise enough how critical it has been for us to understand the implications of the move for officers and staff. On those critical staff questions, over the past couple of months we have ensured that we fully understand the range of issues, such as important pension issues or terms; we have sought professional advice from the Government actuaries department and had broader discussions. After we have got to the bottom of what the issues are, in essence the next year is about fully resolving those issues so that we have a clear set of answers for staff as soon as we possibly can.

I am happy to say more about each individual strand. I am trying to give a flavour of where we are at the moment—it is about identifying the issues and ensuring that we have a full plan to address them. There is still a lot of work to do to manage the process in the right way.

Rona Mackay

How is the timescale? Has the process been harmonious so far?

Dan Moore

I am not sure that arrangements between the UK and Scottish Governments are always as harmonious, but this process has been highly harmonious and collaborative from day 1. The discussions that we have had over the past 16 months have involved some very open conversations. One of our basic rules for the joint programme board is that it is not a talking shop or an opportunity just to get together and say how great the programme is. If there are problems or issues with the programme, we discuss them frankly. That spirit of frankness and openness has been incredibly important. My sense is that there is a genuine joint effort to understand and resolve issues.

We very much recognise that we have different perspectives or different fundamental interests. The United Kingdom Government’s interest will always substantially be in ensuring that the cross-border operations are managed in the right way and that, if the Scottish Parliament proceeds to enact the bill, there is effective protection for the interests of England and Wales after the transition has occurred. The focus of Scottish ministers will necessarily be on ensuring that the service works in the right way in Scotland, as well as in the cross-border areas.

My strong sense is that the process has been highly collaborative and co-ordinated up to this point.

The Convener

You mentioned terms and conditions. I presume that that comes under the workforce project, rather than the pensions workstream.

Dan Moore

That is right.

The Convener

However, we do not think that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations will apply and at this point the workforce have no idea exactly what their terms and conditions will be. How much of a priority will that be? What assurance can you give us about the timescale for resolving that?

Dan Moore

It is an absolute priority, and you are entirely right regarding the position on TUPE. We are now comfortable about COSOP, which is the Cabinet Office statement of practice, as an appropriate means to effect an orderly transfer process. We are also very much conscious of the triple-lock guarantee that has been given by the Scottish Government in that regard.

My strong sense is that the introduction of secondary legislation to the UK Parliament later in the year represents an important milestone for the project. Quite a number of the transitional questions will have to be properly resolved by that point. My sense is that, if we are not in a position to give a substantially greater level of assurance by the late summer, we will have some challenges. However, it is really important—I stress this—for the Scottish Government ultimately to be in position as the employer if the Scottish Parliament passes the bill, so that it can provide that reassurance as soon as practically possible. We think that the triple-lock guarantee is a very good first step in that regard.

The Convener

So, by the time that we reach the end of our stage 1 process, which is likely to be in early May, we will still not have a definitive idea of exactly what the terms and conditions will be, and neither will the workforce.

Dan Moore

Those are complex issues, to be sure, and it is absolutely the case that it will take us a bit of time to work through them properly in the right way. My sense is that we and, in particular, the Scottish Government, are trying to give as much assurance as possible at this point, but there will still be issues that we need to work through over the summer.

Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

My constituency is right on the border. How much has the joint programme board focused on that section of railway—in particular the west coast main line between Carlisle and Lockerbie—and have there been any detailed discussions on how that section of the network will be managed?

Dan Moore

There has been quite a lot of discussion on cross-border questions more generally on both the east coast and west coast main lines. One of the UK Government’s strongest interests in the process, which has been manifested in the discussions with the joint programme board, is to have a seamless and effective process for cross-border policing. The joint programme board has set up an individual work strand on that question. It is effectively an operational-based work strand, which is led by Police Scotland and the British Transport Police. It is trying to get to brass tacks on the questions of the cross-border arrangements.

11:30  



The issues can come up in a number of ways, such as what operational relationships we need to see and what agreements we need to have in place to ensure cross-border policing. Furthermore, statutory instruments will be an important mechanism for effecting devolution because they will set out some of the jurisdictional questions at a later point in the process. We have been thinking carefully about how those instruments should be framed.

The guiding principle that we have been trying to work to is to have effective and seamless cross-border policing. The Scottish Government has also expressed that ambition on a number of occasions. We are moving in the right direction. I assure you that that principle is of substantial importance not only to the joint programme board but to ministers at the Scotland Office and the Department for Transport.

Ben Macpherson

I will follow on in the same vein as the convener and ask about terms and conditions. First, however, I must say how encouraging it is to see the enthusiasm for partnership and collaborative working that you expressed in your initial answer. That is to be noted and commended.

You mentioned pensions. Will you illuminate where we are with pensions? What are the different discussion strands? Is there an openness to allowing members to maintain membership of their current scheme or will membership be opened to other schemes? Will there be the creation of a new scheme? Is a line of thought being progressed or are all options being explored?

Dan Moore

Pensions is a really important area. As the convener mentioned, there is a pensions work strand. The short answer is that a number of options are open at this stage, with thinking on the implications of remaining within the current arrangements and potential future arrangements. We do so in the context of a clear position—it is one of the three aspects of the triple lock, which the Scottish Government has talked about. At this stage, we are making sure that we fully understand the implications for the staff and, as you would expect, the finances associated with any transfer arrangements.

All options are on the table, but I cannot emphasise enough that, when we have been talking about the issues, money—public financing—is clearly important. You would not expect me to say anything else. Providing the right approach to the appropriate transfer of staff has been an important aspect, too. You heard clearly from the chief constable when he was before you a couple of weeks ago that that is an important issue that the BTP continually brings to the table.

I apologise, because that is a somewhat woolly answer. We are still—

Ben Macpherson

It is helpful to get an indication of where things are right now. Considering different arrangements is an appropriate course of action, given that individuals will have pension conditions that they will hope—and look—to maintain. It is good that the issues are being progressed.

Dan Moore

We are certainly considering the matter carefully.

The Convener

Has it been taken into account that, if the issue is not resolved and there is still a question mark, people may vote with their feet rather than wait to see whether the uncertainty will be resolved to their advantage?

Dan Moore

That is a fair point. When we manage risks as part of the joint programme board, the risk of people leaving a highly specialist and important organisation is part of that work. We are trying to provide as much certainty as soon as we possibly can, taking into account the complexity of the situation; we are also trying to work with the BTP in ensuring that as much certainty and clear messaging is provided as soon as possible.

I assure you that, when we look at the risks that we are trying to manage on this project, the question about loss of expertise is at the top of the list.

Liam McArthur

You have outlined the efforts that have been made to address the concerns that have been raised about terms and conditions on the point of transfer. Similarly, there will no doubt be concerns in Police Scotland, which is going through its own consultation on how the force will look.

How are you balancing the risk of losing officers and staff—and, therefore, expertise—and people’s concerns that their terms and conditions might be affected by the transfer with the risk that Police Scotland will have its own anxieties if officers and staff are seen to be coming into that organisation on better terms and conditions than the existing officers and staff?

Dan Moore

That is a fair point, and we are trying to understand that in the work that we are doing.

Although we have been meeting for some time and a considerable amount of work has been done, we recognise that this is the stage at which some of the really difficult and complex issues need to be fully worked through. Trying to understand the implications for individuals and the circumstances that they would go into is an important part of the project as we go forward. My strong sense is that a lot of the issues will depend on the approach that the Scottish Government ultimately takes on questions of pensions and other things. That is why we have been so encouraged by the triple-lock position and the reassurances that you heard from Mr Higgins a couple of weeks ago.

It is a significant work in progress, but we are very aware of the issues that you raise.

Liam McArthur

Is that discussion approaching those issues from the perspective that we need to focus on the interests of the individuals who are transferring and that those who come in their wake—those who are recruited in the coming years—will have to be taken on on terms and conditions that are more reflective of those that exist in Police Scotland at the moment? What is the strategy for handling those who are currently in the service and those who, I presume, will be recruited over the coming years?

Dan Moore

Our focus at the moment is very much on providing reassurance and as much clarity as we can for those who are currently in the service. Over the next several months, we must be clear about how we see the workforce strategy going forward. Mr Higgins was able to give some reassurance on that a couple of weeks ago. For me, one of the most important aims of the workforce workstream that we have set up as part of the joint programme board is to get under those issues and provide as much certainty as we can.

Liam McArthur

You have highlighted the fact that a lot of the detail around the merger will be taken forward in secondary legislation.

Dan Moore

Indeed.

Liam McArthur

That is an understandable approach, but there will be concerns that, whatever is agreed in broad terms, the secondary legislation may have either unintended or unexpected consequences. What assurance can you give us that the consultation around the secondary legislation will be sufficient to allow those concerns to be teased out and thereby avoid a situation, which we have seen in the Parliament on many occasions, in which the secondary legislation presents a take-it-or-leave-it option that does not do justice to the complexity of the issue?

Dan Moore

That is understood. It has to be a collaborative process over the next six months. We are trying to establish a clear lead for each of the individual work strands. For example, the British Transport Police Authority, as the employer, acts as the clear lead on workforce questions but the BTP is also very involved. We envisage not just further conversations but an active process of dialogue with the British Transport Police Federation and others over the next several months as we try to work through some of the questions.

The comments that the earlier panel made about the level of dialogue that there has already been with the Scottish ministers was quite illuminating. I am conscious that a number of these decisions will, ultimately, be questions for the Scottish ministers. I sense that we are moving in a fairly collaborative and open way but that, over the next couple of months, we will also need to uptick the engagement with both the operators and staff representatives.

We fully understand your point about unintended consequences in how the detail is worked out. I have been in circumstances such as those that you described, in which secondary legislation has not quite worked out in the way that we wanted it to. I am very committed to making sure that, over the next several months, this is a collaborative process with the representatives of those who are most directly impacted.

To some extent, the choice that we made at the start of the joint programme was a really big one for us. We had two basic choices. We could have tried to put in place a highly centralised project structure, with a very substantial project management unit and a project management core. However, we have tried to use the workstreams to make sure that we are using both the day-to-day experts—those who understand all the issues—to actively take forward the work, and those who are closest to the operators and the staff to identify issues that we as a central board might not identify immediately.

I hope that the reassurance of the approach that we are taking in this area—of being as close as possible to those who know best about those questions—will result ultimately in exactly such issues being properly picked up.

I cannot emphasise enough, in the discussions of the board, the real importance of understanding the practical staffing impacts. That is very important to us.

The Convener

To be clear, would an example be a formal consultation with bodies such as the Law Society of Scotland, which might have definite views on the statutory instruments?

Dan Moore

I am always wary of speaking directly for the Scottish Government on formal, as it were consultative, processes. There will be a number of Scottish Government issues, and, consistent with the devolution process, ultimately quite a lot of the process must be driven by decisions that are made by the Parliament and by the Scottish Government. I do not want to speak too much about the Government’s process.

With regard to the statutory instrument process, there are a couple of statutory instruments that we would look to use to effect transfer. I do not know whether this is the time to get into that detail, but there are two such instruments. The section 90 order would transfer assets and liabilities and would be subject to the scrutiny of this Parliament as well the United Kingdom Parliament. The section 104 order would be a UK Parliament measure but would cover a range of jurisdictional consequential issues. I absolutely see that being the process of engagement and discussion.

At this stage, we have not established exactly the formal public consultation process that we would follow, but I cannot emphasise enough the premium that we place on engagement and that we have placed on it throughout the joint programme board process, from its first day. It is one of our guiding principles. I would not want anybody to come to this committee in two years’ time because of an issue that is the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government and say that that Government has not given them an opportunity to be heard. That is what we are trying to secure as part of this process.

The Convener

I appreciate that point. Taking it a little bit further, you might take it on board that dialogue and discussions behind closed doors are one thing, but a formal consultation process provides an opportunity for responses to be seen, for transparency, and for accountability to follow. I hope that you take that on board.

Dan Moore

I will certainly take that away. I very much agree with the spirit of that.

John Finnie

I would like to raise two points with you. One is on your last point about engagement. I do not know whether you heard last week’s evidence from Mr Steele, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation. If it was not he who said this, it might have been Mr Higgins, who alluded to the fact that there is already within Police Scotland a range of terms and conditions, not least in relation to issues such as formal housing allowance and pensions. This would be another complication thrown into the mix. Has the JPB engaged with the Scottish Police Federation?

Dan Moore

At this stage there has not been a strong process of engagement, although there will absolutely have to be one as part of the process. We have identified a group of parties and broadened the board in the last couple of months to include the forces that we envisage having a greater level of engagement with from now on, including the Scottish Police Federation and the British Transport Police Federation.

I emphasise—this is something that Scottish Government colleagues might be able to say more about when they appear before the committee next week—that there has been an extensive set of discussions with Scottish Government colleagues, the Scottish Police Federation and other representative organisations in an effort to understand their interests. I am very conscious that quite a number of the practical day-to-day decisions will ultimately be decisions for the Scottish Government. In many respects, quite a lot of the consultation in this area must follow that decision-making tree, as it were.

11:45  



John Finnie

My other question is about operational issues, in the event that the Scottish Parliament passes the bill. There are long-standing conventions between Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, as it was, and Cumbria Constabulary and between Lothian and Borders Police, as it was, and Northumbria Police. When the convener and I considered the single service as members of the session 4 Justice Committee, the question of jurisdiction came up. Similarly, when we dealt with legislation about hot pursuit at sea in session 4, there were issues of jurisdiction.

The BTP has existing arrangements to deal with matters of jurisdiction, and I do not envisage that they will necessarily change. Is there engagement with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and its counterpart the Crown Prosecution Service to address some of the concerns relating to where a crime is alleged to have been committed and where it would be dealt with, which to me seem doable issues?

Dan Moore

That is a very reasonable question, but I am afraid that I cannot give you a detailed answer. My expectation is that such arrangements exist.

The important issue on which I want to reassure the committee is that, on a range of practical, operational questions, we are very much relying on the British Transport Police, which has specialist knowledge and expert judgment, to tell us what it needs in that area. Before we went down this route, we had to be comfortable that, whether on practical hot pursuit questions or on day-to-day operational matters, we had a sensible set of arrangements to ensure that there would be seamless cross-border policing.

You fairly referred to the existing very good bilateral cross-border arrangements. We want to strengthen those on railway policing issues. I mentioned the section 104 order. We want to ensure that we have done all the necessary work through the joint programme board so that we are fully clear about all such jurisdictional matters before the order gets to the UK Parliament. I reassure the committee that jurisdiction is one of the top issues on our agenda. We are relying to a substantial degree on those who know best—the British Transport Police—to advise us on that.

John Finnie

That is very important for a reason that goes beyond the bill that we are considering—that of security and, in particular, the threat of terrorism, which is a global issue. It is an obligation for not just Scotland, but the rest of the UK and the UK collectively, to get the procedures right.

Dan Moore

Absolutely. We are very conscious of that. I am also very conscious of the existing arrangements between Home Office forces in England and Wales and Police Scotland. Mr Higgins talked about those when he appeared before the committee two weeks ago. Those arrangements are incredibly important.

We are clear that the transport policing reforms—if they are adopted by the Scottish Parliament—should not inject any degree of security or other risk into arrangements that work well.

John Finnie

Many thanks.

Claire Baker

We discussed with the previous panel the possibility of one-off costs and the issue of who would meet the project costs. Is that being looked at by the board’s governance and finance group? The operators put the case that that is not their responsibility. Does that mean that the responsibility will lie with the Scottish Government?

Dan Moore

There are two questions there. Costing questions have occupied a reasonable proportion of the board’s time over the past few months. In many cases, it is just a question of understanding what the costs are—both the transitional costs and any longer-term costs that arise in this area. We have tasked the BTPA to make sure that we fully understand those costs and cost implications over the next several months, so that we can take a view on their appropriate allocation. It is a matter that is still under discussion. In relation to the operators’ point, I have heard the railway delivery group very clearly, and I have had many discussions with the RDG over the past several months on the question of the transitional cost.

A number of legislative changes affect the BTP on an annual basis. My team deals with a substantial number of pieces of Home Office legislation that go through the UK Parliament and impose a degree of cost on the operators. We see the transitional cost as having a similar basis—it will be a chargeable cost to the operators, but I have heard their concerns on that. That is why we are trying to push the question as far as possible, to understand what the delta—the level of cost—is so that we can make an appropriate decision as to how it should be allocated.

Claire Baker

At the moment, then, there is no clarity about who will meet the transitional costs, once they are known. Is it possible that the operators will meet those costs? I know that that may not be your decision to make.

Dan Moore

That is a very fair point. Speaking frankly, the UK Government’s starting position is that it is a chargeable expense that would be paid by the operators in the normal way. However, I am very conscious of the strong representations that the operators have made both this morning and in discussions to date. For some time the BTPA has been doing as we asked and working to understand the scale and nature of those costs, so that we can reconsider whether they should be dealt with in a different way. I apologise for the fact that that is not a comprehensive answer, but we are genuinely trying to listen to operators as we go through the process and we are willing to think again about some principles in order to effect the process in the most collaborative and sensible way.

Claire Baker

You have said that the UK Government believes it to be a chargeable cost, but the legislation is not being brought forward by the UK Government—it is being brought forward by the Scottish Government. Does it come down to the UK Government because of the way that things are constituted at the moment?

Dan Moore

It is the way that it is constituted at the moment.

Claire Baker

Even though it is not the UK Government’s legislation or decision?

Dan Moore

Indeed. That is exactly where the challenge arises. At the moment, a lot of changes are made in relation to the BTP on an annual basis. That normally results in cost implications for the operators, who directly pay for and benefit from the policing service. Our starting proposition was that this was a change like any other, but we are very conscious of the representations that have been made both today and previously. We want to understand the nature of the costs further, in order to make a better and clearer decision.

I want to make it really clear that there is a substantial interest for the operators in ensuring that the right arrangements are in place for the transfer. As I mentioned earlier, we want to make sure that the arrangements work on a cross-border and an England and Wales basis well into the future—well past 1 April 2019, if the devolution takes place at that point. There is a strong interest on the part of operators to make sure that any arrangements that are put in place over the next couple of years continue to work for cross-border and England and Wales policing after that point. We think that there is a reasonable argument in that area, but I have heard the points that have been made by the RDG.

Claire Baker

I have one final point. It is anticipated that there will be a very busy legislative programme in the UK Parliament over the next couple of years. Are you confident about the timescale that has been proposed? Will there be space for the legislation?

Dan Moore

That has been on our radar for some time and we have done what we can to programme it in.

As I sit here today, I am comfortable that we have done enough to ensure that this particular secondary legislation—I stress that it is secondary legislation; if it were primary legislation there might be more of a question—contains enough detail that we can have confidence in the date. For me, the critical question on the date concerns the fact that there is a huge amount of work to do between now and 1 April 2019—I want the committee to be in no doubt about that. Through the joint programme board, we need to ensure that that work is properly done. The greater risk to the date would arise in a situation in which that work was not taken forward in the most orderly manner. At the moment, I am not factoring in any risk in relation to parliamentary time, not least because of the fact that the matter has been on our forward agenda for some time.

The Convener

As you will have heard today, the train operators want to be consulted from the outset. Has the joint programme board formally met with them?

Dan Moore

As chair of the joint programme board, I have met with the RDG several times, including one meeting with the policing and security representative last week. We will continue that process of detailed engagement. The RDG is one of our most important stakeholder groups in this area, and we will absolutely keep that process of engagement going on. That includes bilateral discussions and discussions involving the RDG’s policing and security committee, which, as Mr Cooper said, is a really important forum.

Douglas Ross

ScotRail and others told us about issues around the governance arrangements. Can you give us some details about the discussions that the board has had about governance?

Dan Moore

So far, the main discussions have involved us going through some of the benefits that we see of having bespoke governance arrangements in place. Previously, we have talked in the context of the board about the sort of arrangements that the British Transport Police Authority currently has, the core aspects of which are that it is able to set policing objectives that reflect operator priorities, that it is able to plan in a way that reflects the specialism and priorities of the force and that it is able to hold the force accountable for delivery. We have tried to talk through some of those questions. Speaking frankly, we were quite pleased to see the forum suggestion that is before you in the legislation, because we think that one of the really important aspects of what we are doing concerns the need to maintain the specialism of this, in my view, quite special force. It is important that the governance arrangements reflect that. If properly implemented, the forum arrangement should be capable of maintaining that focus on the specialism.

Douglas Ross

However, decisions will still be taken by the Scottish Police Authority and the single chief constable for the whole of Police Scotland. In this Parliament—indeed in this committee—there are concerns about scrutiny and the role of the SPA. We set up and still maintain a separate sub-committee specifically on policing, and it does a lot of the work that many people expected the SPA to do. Is it not concerning that, at a time when people are expressing concerns about the ability of the SPA to scrutinise and lead Police Scotland in terms of strategies—leaving the operational side to the chief constable—we are now adding another layer to that with the potential absorption of the BTP?

Dan Moore

I understand that point. This is one of the areas on which I am reluctant to get into too much detail, largely because I think that the governance arrangements have to be fundamentally a matter for the Scottish Government, as it brings forward its proposals in this particular area. The joint programme board adds some value by demonstrating the value of ensuring that the governance arrangements support the effective provision of a specialist policing force. However, I am cautious about the UK Government specifically commenting on particular governance arrangements, and particularly the arrangements relating to the Scottish Police Authority.

I can give you some assurance, in that I have had a substantial level of discussions with the Scottish Government over the past few months on maintaining specialism. The recognition of the importance of specialism comes through in all the documents. That was not there when we started the joint programme board process 18 months ago. I think that the Scottish Government recognised the importance of specialism but did not underline it in the way that it has done in the past several months. That is a strong foundation point to build on.

12:00  



Douglas Ross

That is an interesting point, but my concern is that, although one of the many things in the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, which introduced Police Scotland and the single fire and rescue service, is that the SPA should be open and transparent and ensure good governance, week after week, we see that the SPA does not provide that. We will see what happens at its board meeting on Wednesday.

I will just make a final point about what you are saying. It is all very well to get that language from the Scottish Government but, before MSPs vote on the bill, we need to see that that approach will be implemented in any scrutiny body or governance arrangements. Although language is useful at this stage, we need some evidence that that will happen. I am just concerned that, of all the topic headings—

The Convener

Can I stop you there, Mr Ross? Those are matters for the Scottish Government. I think that Mr Moore has answered the question. Do you have something extra?

Douglas Ross

I was just going to finish the point. I wanted to ask about the various projects. I see that governance and finance have been put together in one project. Are you dedicating equal time to the various projects, Mr Moore, or is governance getting less attention paid to it?

Dan Moore

It is fair to say that it varies, depending on the issues under discussion. The legislative aspects have taken a significantly greater amount of time in recent months. That is probably for understandable reasons, given the bill before this Parliament and the proceedings in the House of Lords last year.

Just to rewind one point, the issues that have had most coverage in the joint programme board have been a combination of workforce and operational questions, and most particularly the cross-border issue that we have talked about. Governance has had relatively less prominence, but I do not think that that is because its importance has been understated in the discussions so far; it is because the Scottish Government has for some time been emphasising the importance of governance arrangements that preserve specialism. However, we see that as ultimately a question for the Scottish Government—I take the convener’s point on that very clearly.

The Convener

If you cannot give us an answer now, perhaps you could write to us with the timescale for completing each of the workstreams and, in particular, under the operational one, the timescale for the jurisdictional issues, which seem pretty fundamental.

Dan Moore

I am very happy to do so. The joint programme board will meet again in a week and a bit to discuss and review the project. If it is convenient for the committee, I will provide an update to you after that discussion and after you have had the minister before you. My sense is that that would be a good point at which to provide an update, and I would be very happy to do so.

The Convener

The committee would appreciate that.

That concludes our questions. I thank Mr Moore for attending.

Dan Moore

Thank you very much for the opportunity.

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Fourth meeting transcript

The Convener

Agenda item 2 is consideration of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. This is our closing evidence session on the bill. I refer members to paper 1, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 2, which is a paper from the Scottish Parliament information centre.

I welcome Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, and Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, as well as their officials, Don McGillivray, deputy director of the police division, and Kevin Gibson, a solicitor from the directorate for legal services in the Scottish Government. I also welcome Gordon Macleod, rail standards and sustainability manager at Transport Scotland.

Does the Cabinet Secretary for Justice wish to make an opening statement?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

Yes. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today. Our Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill follows on from the transfer of legislative competence over railway policing to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act 2016. As members will be aware, the Scottish Government’s input to the Smith commission sought the devolution of railway policing, to bring the staff and powers of the British Transport Police within the remit of the single Police Service of Scotland. The Smith commission’s recommendation, reached through cross-party agreement, was indeed that the functions of the BTP in Scotland should be a devolved matter.

The bill before the committee forms part of a wider programme of work to integrate the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland. Members have heard about that programme in a number of previous sessions. You have heard that, through the joint programme board, we are working closely with the United Kingdom Government, the BTP, the British Transport Police Authority, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to make integration a success. You have heard about our regular and constructive discussions with representatives of the railway industry, which has a crucial role as both funder and recipient of railway policing services.

I will underline some of the key benefits that the integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland will deliver. It will make railway policing in Scotland accountable, through the chief constable and the SPA, to the people of Scotland. It will enhance railway policing through direct access to the specialist resources of Police Scotland. It will provide an integrated approach to transport infrastructure policing, bringing railway policing alongside the policing of roads, sea ports and airports and border policing.

The committee has heard about other benefits of integration during previous evidence sessions. Assistant Chief Constable Higgins has identified a greater ability to deploy more resources to locations that currently do not receive them. Rail industry representatives have flagged up an opportunity for cross-fertilisation of best practice, an opportunity for improved efficiency and the potential for improvements to the existing police service agreements.

The committee’s evidence sessions so far have enabled concerns about integration to be aired and some of our key partners in delivering integration to speak about how those can be addressed. In response to concerns that our railway policing specialism would not be maintained, ACC Higgins has given a clear assurance of Police Scotland’s intention to maintain a specialist railway policing function within the broader Police Scotland structure. In response to concerns that railway police officers would be diverted to duties outwith the railway, ACC Higgins gave a clear assurance that that would not occur, with the obvious exception of a crisis situation.

In response to concerns about the terms and conditions of officers and staff who transfer into Police Scotland, members have heard that we have offered a triple-lock guarantee that secures jobs, pay and pension conditions throughout the course of integration. On that front, I can tell the committee that positive discussions are now under way with the BTPA to establish the way in which we deliver our commitment of no detriment to pension provision for BTP officers and staff who transfer. Our starting point is that officers and staff retain access to their current pension scheme. Officials are working on the financial and legal issues that are associated with delivering that approach.

The committee will want to move on swiftly to questions so, in conclusion, I emphasise our on-going commitment to working in partnership with members of the joint programme board, the rail industry and officer and staff representatives to ensure that railway policing in Scotland has a strong future.

The Convener

Thank you for that opening statement.

You will be aware that the BTP branch of the Police Superintendents Association stated:

“counter terrorist related matters, bomb hoaxes and bomb threats on major lines ... or targeted at train operators on a single transport network are currently handled by one force—BTP”.

It also said that

“Devolving railway policing and causing the introduction of dual controls at the border with different bomb threat categorisation arrangements”

will introduce “an element of risk”. At a time of heightened security alert, do you consider that taking that risk can be justified?

Michael Matheson

When it comes to putting in place plans to deal with any type of security issue, it is important that all of our police services in Scotland and the rest of the UK work in a collaborative fashion. Currently, if there were a major incident in the form of a terrorist threat to railway infrastructure, the BTP in Scotland would receive considerable additional resource support from Police Scotland to deal with it, based on Police Scotland’s capabilities. For example, at present, if there is a need for firearms capability, the BTP in Scotland is dependent on Police Scotland to provide that specialist resource for the BTP as and when it is required.

With the integration of railway policing into Police Scotland, I have no doubt that the protocols and arrangements that will be put in place to deal with issues such as bomb hoaxes on our railways—of course, those can occur outwith the railway system in any part of our society that Police Scotland deals with—will be the same as the arrangements that are already in place to deal with them. The police will do that in a co-ordinated fashion that recognises the potential impact that a decision in Scotland can have on the wider network and considers how that decision can be communicated to those in other parts of the network in the UK that might be affected.

The Convener

I will delve down a little further. The Transport Salaried Staffs Association stated that

“BTP currently has ... UK wide intelligence, crime recording and command and control systems”

that enable it to

“seamlessly ‘follow’ real time incidents”.

It also asserted that

“This system will not be available to Police Scotland who will have to use their comparatively inefficient information protocols”.

I note what the cabinet secretary is saying, but that is evidence to the effect that Police Scotland simply does not have sufficient information protocols to handle and avert the risk, and I am asking you whether taking that risk is justified.

Michael Matheson

I am surprised at the question, because I would have assumed that you would be aware that Police Scotland has access to the UK-wide intelligence network at this time.

If there is an incident such as the one that happened last week in Westminster, Police Scotland will be directly engaged in the network across the UK in assessing and responding to that with colleagues across the rest of the UK. Those direct links into the intelligence network will continue with the integration of railway policing into Police Scotland.

A single command structure for how we respond will be created. At present, the BTP has access to the intelligence gathering and sharing structure, as does Police Scotland. With integration, there will not be two separate command structures in Scotland; there will be a single command structure in Police Scotland, which will take that information—the intelligence—and respond in an appropriate way in Scotland in dealing with any matter. That will include all aspects of our infrastructure—not just our railways, which of course are an important part, but our roads, ports and airports, all of which have different threat and risk assessments carried out on them.

Police Scotland will use intelligence to inform the approach that it takes in responding to any particular threat in Scotland. That will be done in a single command structure and in a way that is reflective of the other aspects of our infrastructure, given where the threats may be at the time and depending on the intelligence that Police Scotland receives.

The Convener

Are you confident that Police Scotland will be able to follow real-time incidents and have the same recording and command and control systems that are in place at present?

Michael Matheson

I am surprised that anyone would think that Police Scotland does not have access to that live information. It has that access now and that will continue to be the case. The idea that the BTP has preferential access to intelligence on terrorism matters over and above the access that Police Scotland has is simply not true—

The Convener

If I could interrupt, cabinet secretary, I am asking whether the cross-border aspects of the service will be seamless. If an incident starts in Scotland and the perpetrators cross the border into England, the service will continue. Is that correct?

Michael Matheson

That happens right now. If there were a need for specialist capability to support the BTP in Scotland relating to such an incident, that would be delivered by Police Scotland, because it is the only force in Scotland that has the capability to meet that need. It would supplement the present resource. However, there are two different command structures in taking forward that work. When those are integrated, there will be a single command structure for that.

When it comes to assessing any of those matters, Police Scotland operates at a UK level. Actually, the committee should look at the Prime Minister’s comments from yesterday about Police Scotland. She was exceptionally complimentary about its capability to deal with such threats and its technical capacity to do so as the second biggest force in the UK.

Police Scotland has the access routes into information and the technical capacity to interpret and use it appropriately. I would expect that to continue when railway policing is integrated into Police Scotland. In fact, the service will be enhanced by having in place a single command structure, which will remove any duplication or different lines of decision making and ensure that decisions are made on the basis of looking across Scotland’s infrastructure and the arrangements that we have in place for it.

The Convener

I will let in other members in a moment. The point has been made about, for example, a football incident that started in Scotland and continued on to Birmingham. The jurisdiction ends at the border—Police Scotland has no jurisdiction thereafter.

10:00  



Michael Matheson

Cross-border work takes place on such incidents. For example, it takes place in ports between Scotland and Northern Ireland; in road policing, where we have in place protocols with forces in England and in partnership with Police Scotland; and in airports, where we share intelligence not just at domestic level but at international level.

That type of integration, sharing of information and co-operation therefore already takes place at domestic level. When it comes to things such as travelling football fans, Police Scotland could probably give very good examples from the approach that was taken for the recent England-Scotland game. Although the BTP was involved in that, Police Scotland was heavily involved. Through its football intelligence unit, it worked in co-ordination with the Metropolitan Police and the BTP on how to manage the situation, and resources from Police Scotland were deployed to manage it. The BTP was part of the approach, but Police Scotland, working in partnership with its colleagues in the Met, was involved in the passage of Scotland fans all the way down. Indeed, officers from Police Scotland were based down there to help to deal with the type of scenario to which you refer.

The Convener

Your evidence is now on the record, cabinet secretary, and it will be for those who are steeped in this to look at it and see whether you have addressed their concerns. Mary Fee has a supplementary question.

Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

My question follows on from the points that the convener has raised. Counterterrorism is reserved within the BTP and the control for that is held centrally. Although I appreciate the comments that the cabinet secretary has made about having a single command structure when Police Scotland takes on responsibility for the transport police, there is already a single command structure across the BTP for dealing with issues related to terrorism. I would like an assurance from the cabinet secretary that there will be no break in the flow of information, because if the transport police become part of Police Scotland there will be two commands of operations, as there will be the rest of the BTP and Police Scotland.

Michael Matheson

To be clear, are you referring to an incident taking place on the railways or are you talking about a terrorist threat in general?

Mary Fee

I am talking about an incident on the railways.

Michael Matheson

Right now, if there was a significant terrorist threat on the railways in Scotland, the BTP would require the support of Police Scotland to deal with it. The BTP in Scotland does not have the specialist capacity to deal with such an incident, so it would already have support from Police Scotland to deal with those things. Two command structures would be involved in trying to respond to such an incident in Scotland. Following the integration of railway policing into Police Scotland, a single command structure would deal with such an incident. The change would remove the need for decisions to be made, for example, at the BTP’s command and control centre in Birmingham about how it responds to the situation up here in Scotland, because the chief constable or the senior officers who were dealing with the incident would make the decisions. We would therefore remove the element of the present arrangement that involves two different command structures dealing with such an incident. Police Scotland would be the single command that would make the decisions. You heard from ACC Higgins when he gave evidence about how that can help to streamline the process.

I am confident that, following the integration of railway policing into Police Scotland, there will be no doubt about the capacity of Police Scotland to deal with terrorist incidents if they occur on our railway network. Indeed, it will allow us to ensure that the approach that we take to infrastructure policing as a whole in Scotland puts us in a strong position to look at all the potential threats to the major elements of our infrastructure. If anything, it will help to reinforce the way in which we manage and protect our infrastructure. It is worth keeping in mind that one element that the strategic defence and security review that the UK Government published in 2015 looked at was the creation of infrastructure policing. That was with a view to looking at how to co-ordinate responses to such threats much more effectively. Whether the UK Government chooses to go down that route is a matter for it, but that was a key area that it said it would want to consider addressing to ensure that there is more effective policing of our major infrastructure in the UK as a whole.

I believe that one benefit that will come from integrating the BTP into Police Scotland will be that we will be in a position in which we can future proof in regard to that. Whatever route the UK Government chooses to go down—whether it proceeds on an informal protocol basis or whether it wants to legislate—is a matter for it but, in Scotland, we will already have taken forward that element of work and we can ensure that we manage our infrastructure and its security in a co-ordinated fashion under a single command through Police Scotland.

Mary Fee

The concern was raised because terrorism could of course be cross-border. There is one chain of command across the BTP and a seamless flow of information, and there has been concern that there could potentially be a breakdown or not the same seamless flow of information across the country.

Michael Matheson

In theory, that is an argument for having a single police force for all aspects of policing for the whole of the UK, not just for the railways. Currently, information is exchanged at the UK national level. Intelligence is shared, and Police Scotland is completely engaged in that process. The tragic events that unfolded last Wednesday provide an example of where Police Scotland was engaged at UK level in looking at a matter, assessing the situation and discussing the issue with police forces in other parts of the UK to inform the response in Scotland.

I am confident that the sharing of information on the counterterrorism matters that Police Scotland deals with day in, day out—whether they are to do with our roads, airports, ports or policing in general—is an on-going daily process and that Police Scotland is well engaged at UK level not only with police forces across the UK but with our security services in assessing risks. Indeed, it goes beyond that. That sharing of intelligence and joint working is done on a pan-European Union basis through Europol. We have embedded officers there to share intelligence and work in a co-ordinated fashion, whether that is on international crime, serious and organised crime or human trafficking. Work goes even beyond that, into Interpol and work on a multinational basis across the world.

There is the ability to share intelligence and information and operate in a co-ordinated fashion now. That is not new; it already happens and Police Scotland does that on a daily basis. I have absolutely no doubt that, with railway policing coming into Police Scotland—if that is the will of the Parliament—that will be reinforced, because that will create a single command structure, allow us to make decisions and allow the police to make decisions on and assessments of how to respond to matters across our public infrastructure in Scotland in a way that it sees as appropriate to the situation in Scotland.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Cabinet secretary, the Scottish Government has stated that it recognises the importance of providing “early clarity” to BTP officers and staff on their terms and conditions following integration, should that go ahead. That said, I absolutely understand why the British Transport Police Federation would have concerns when it sees phrases such as “The Scottish Government aims to ensure”.

Can you provide clarity, please, on why the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations are not applicable, what the status is of the Cabinet Office statement of practice, and how that will manifest itself in the triple-lock assurance that you keep referring to?

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf)

I will take that question, as I lead on that side of things for the Government.

From the outset, we have understood that BTP officers have concerns about terms and conditions. I know that from meeting Chief Superintendent McBride, and we were aware of that very early on in discussions. The cabinet secretary and I thought that we would like to give assurances early on to the British Transport Police Federation, the unions and others that, in our minds, a triple-lock guarantee in respect of the jobs, terms and conditions and pensions of officers and staff would be absolutely appropriate. That is how we are approaching any discussions.

The work is being carried out through the joint programme board. Earlier this month, the committee took evidence from Dan Moore, of course, and he explained things very well. The issue is so important that pensions is one of the key workstreams that is being undertaken.

We have set out some of the reasons why, in our opinion, TUPE does not apply. TUPE covers only what are known as “relevant transfers”. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 state:

“An administrative reorganisation of public administrative authorities or the transfer of administrative functions between public administrative authorities is not a relevant transfer.”

The Scottish Government’s view in this case is that it involves the transfer of an administrative function between public authorities, and the exclusion therefore applies. We are using the Cabinet Office statement of practice on staff transfers in the public sector, which states:

“in circumstances where TUPE does not apply in strict legal terms to certain types of transfer between different parts of the public sector, the principles of TUPE should be followed (where possible using legislation to effect the transfer) and the staff involved should be treated no less favourably than had the Regulations applied”.

I hope that the committee acknowledges that, even though TUPE does not apply, the COSOP provides reassurance in that regard.

We are absolutely determined to ensure that there is no detriment. The triple-lock guarantee exists to reassure officers that their terms and conditions will remain as they are. I hope that the evidence from Assistant Chief Constable Higgins reflected that position.

John Finnie

Thank you for that. For the avoidance of doubt, is the free travel provision for officers and families part of what the triple lock would seal in?

Humza Yousaf

Yes—again, that will be determined through the work that we are doing with the joint programme board. We have to go through the detail of that, but it would be detrimental to officers’ terms and conditions if the provision did not remain in place. We are very much looking for the transfer to be as seamless as possible and to be based on the principle of no detriment.

John Finnie

Are you able to give us a timetable for when there will be absolute clarity for individual officers and their families and for the rail staff?

Humza Yousaf

From a Government perspective, we understand that the earlier we can give those assurances, the better it is for officers. However, some of those issues—pensions are an obvious example—have to be worked through in a lot of detail, and we have to allow the joint programme board, which consults and holds discussions regularly with the BTPA, the BTPF and others, the time and space to do that. We completely understand that the earlier we can give those assurances in detail, the better. However, in the absence of that detail, the cabinet secretary and I have put on public record and in writing—in black and white—that the triple-lock guarantee will protect terms and conditions for BTP officers once the integration takes place. We hope that that offers some level of comfort and assurance.

In evidence to the committee, Chief Constable Crowther of the BTP said:

“I am encouraged by the Scottish Government’s commitment to the triple-lock approach around terms and conditions, pensions and so on.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 22.]

I hope that his confidence in the Government’s commitment translates into confidence among BTP officers.

John Finnie

I am sorry to flog the issue, but it is apparent that the commitment does not provide comfort to the federated ranks at this stage. Can you indicate the priority that you are giving the matter? If the Government wants to win hearts and minds, it needs to reassure the people who are directly involved in delivering the service—that is, by and large, the federated ranks of the British Transport Police in Scotland.

Humza Yousaf

It is a huge priority for the Scottish Government. When I look at the joint programme board and the various workstreams, I see that the pension workstream, the workforce project and operational integration are right at the top of the list of what we are doing. When it comes to integration, safety is our number 1 priority, as I think everyone round the committee table would appreciate. Terms and conditions are a priority alongside that.

We understand that there is some nervousness, but whatever I can do, and whatever assurances we can continue to give, we will do that. Nevertheless, it must be understood that some of the issues are complex—again, I cite pensions as an example—and involve a lot of detail, and it is therefore appropriate that we give the joint programme board time to work through those issues.

The Convener

Oliver Mundell has a supplementary.

10:15  



Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

I have listened very carefully to what the cabinet secretary has said so far. The current context is one in which there are positive benefits from cross-border working and information sharing, and I appreciate that the Scottish Government believes that there are further benefits to be had from going ahead with the integration of the BTP in Scotland with Police Scotland. However, does the cabinet secretary agree that things are working well at the moment?

Michael Matheson

Do you mean in terms of devolving railway policing?

Oliver Mundell

Are things working well at present within railway policing in Scotland?

Michael Matheson

We are where we are on the basis of the Smith commission’s decision to devolve railway policing.

Oliver Mundell

Leaving the Smith commission aside, is the BTP operating well on a practical, day-to-day basis in Scotland?

Michael Matheson

By and large, the British Transport Police provide a good service in Scotland and across the whole UK. However, the reality is that a cross-party decision was made to devolve responsibility for railway policing to the Scottish Parliament. Given that that now has legislative force and that it falls within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, we need to put in place a structure that ensures that railway policing in Scotland is accountable to the people of Scotland. That is exactly what we have done in taking forward the bill. I respect that some people disagree with the approach that we are taking in doing that, but I have not heard a detailed, viable alternative for how that could be achieved. However, the reality is that where we are is a reflection of the Smith commission’s decision.

Oliver Mundell

Okay. I understand that, but if things are working well, there is no imperative to undertake the integration straight away. The integration process seems very rushed to me. Can you give any practical examples of where the current model has failed?

Michael Matheson

Your point is that the process has been very rushed. We set out our position on the matter back in 2011 and set it out again in 2013, prior to the move to a single police force in Scotland. We then set out our position in our submission to the Smith commission in October 2014, which gave our rationale for the integration of the BTP in Scotland with Police Scotland. The process has not been rushed. Further, you will have heard ACC Higgins say that the two-year timeframe for considering the integration has been “a luxury”, compared to the challenges that the police faced in integrating all the police forces in Scotland into a single force.

I am confident that there will be sufficient time to take forward the integration. I certainly do not view it as being rushed, given that we have set out, over an extended period, our belief that integration will create greater efficiency and coherence in how policing is delivered in Scotland.

Oliver Mundell

I note that you sidestepped my principal question. Are there any examples of the failure of our current policing model for railways in Scotland?

Michael Matheson

The principal issue is how railway policing is accountable in Scotland at present. Some committee members might recall that there were concerns a number of years ago about British Transport Police’s approach to stop and search, because a disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic communities were being stopped and searched. My predecessor raised concerns about that at the time, but the issue was outwith the scope of what the Scottish Parliament could deal with. The BTP was not accountable in Scotland for that approach because it is a UK force that is accountable to the British Transport Police Authority and to the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State for Transport in England and Wales.

Members will also be aware that an issue at present is that the policing response to incidents on our railways that occur beyond the central belt or major conurbations, particularly in our rural areas, is largely delivered by Police Scotland. That is because of the length of time that it takes for the BTP to respond to such incidents. For example, I have four train stations in my constituency, none of which has a permanent BTP presence. If there is an incident in any of those stations, the local police service will respond. If a specialist resource is required for an incident, the local police must wait for the BTP to arrive with it.

One of the benefits of integration, as ACC Higgins highlighted, is a greater understanding of operating on our railways, because, alongside that very specialist division that will deal with the specialist elements, Police Scotland officers will receive more training on dealing with railway issues.

At the moment, the service is, by and large, good where it is received, but there are significant parts of the country where BTP has very little resilience to respond to matters and Police Scotland has to step in to fill the space. That is a reflection of where are we presently, but I believe that, as ACC Higgins has highlighted in the approach that Police Scotland intends to take, integration will lead to Police Scotland having greater capacity to meet these needs across the network in Scotland, alongside the specialist capacity that BTP delivers at the moment to deal with incidents that require specialist input. There is an issue with resilience in the existing system, and I think that moving this function to our national police service will provide greater resilience and access to a wider range of specialist supports that, at the present, we do not have with BTP in Scotland.

Oliver Mundell

I think—

The Convener

I will stop you there, because your question was supposed to be a supplementary to John Finnie’s question. However, we seem to have gone on to a different subject.

Oliver Mundell

I am sorry, convener—I had thought that we were still on the previous line of questioning.

The Convener

No. We had moved on to John Finnie’s questions about TUPE.

I know that Fulton MacGregor wants to continue with that issue, and Ben Macpherson is happy for him to go first. Members will have an opportunity to come back in later.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

My question is actually similar to Oliver Mundell’s. For how long has BTP’s integration into Police Scotland been Scottish Government policy?

Michael Matheson

As I said to Oliver Mundell, we first set out this approach when we started to look at moving to a single police force in Scotland, which would have been back in 2011. If I recall correctly, I believe that John Finnie previously raised the issue at parliamentary level—

John Finnie

That is correct.

Michael Matheson

I vaguely remember the member’s interest in the issue back then.

When we started to look at having a single police force in Scotland, we looked at other aspects of policing in Scotland that could be included in that wider force, and in 2013, when we moved towards establishing the single force, my predecessor made further representations to the UK Government about integrating the BTP with Police Scotland. In 2014, we set out the issue in greater detail to the Smith commission when it was considering the matter; indeed, we proposed that not only the BTP but civil nuclear policing be integrated into Police Scotland. Again, the civil nuclear force forms a major part of infrastructure policing, largely providing an armed response for the facilities that it covers.

I am not saying that the Smith commission said that one model or another should be put in place, but it agreed that the responsibility should be devolved. With this bill, we are now taking forward a policy intention that we have been setting out for a number of years. We need to ensure that, if the matter falls within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, we have a clear line of accountability for the delivery of the service. Ultimately, whoever delivers the service is accountable to the Scottish people, and we believe that this model best effects that type of integration and accountability.

Fulton MacGregor

What response did you get from other political parties to your consultation on BTP integration?

Michael Matheson

I am not aware of any formal responses from other political parties, but anyone who looks at our submission to the Smith commission and our proposal for legislative competence for railway policing to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament will be left in absolutely no doubt of our view on what should happen to that service once responsibility for it has been devolved. As I said, I am not aware of any responses made by other parties to the consultation, but I note that there was cross-party agreement on the proposal to devolve responsibility for the BTP.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I take your point about the Smith commission, and I accept that it has been the long-standing position of the Scottish Government to fold the British Transport Police into Police Scotland. However, it would be fair to say that, out of the Smith commission recommendations, there were perhaps two, three or four options that could have been used to give effect to that. Is it good practice for the Government to consult solely on one option, or should it at least posit the notion that there are other possible options—albeit at the same time outlining the shortcomings that it may see in those other options?

Michael Matheson

It is not unusual for Governments to take a policy decision and then to pursue it. The integration of the BTP into Police Scotland has been the Government’s policy position for a number of years.

Liam McArthur

Is that a good approach to the development of good legislation? We do not have a revising chamber here, and the consultation process is front loaded. Are we and the process not better served if the consultation appraises all the options, albeit that the Government would frame the consultation in such a way as to make absolutely clear its preferred option and what the benefits of that option might be? I take your point that the Scottish Government has made clear its position over some time.

Michael Matheson

Before I discuss the other options, it is important for us to recognise that the Government will make policy decisions on matters and then pursue them. For example, we made a policy decision that we would try to reduce the number of children who are cross-examined in our courts, and then we consulted on how we could ensure that that happened. That is not based on whether it should happen or not. It is about taking that policy forward to its implementation. That is what we have done with the BTP.

However, let us consider the options. The model that we are developing just now was one of the options that was advanced by the BTP and the BTPA. They suggested three models, prior to legislative competence for railway policing being given to the Parliament.

First, there is the model that we are pursuing.

Secondly, there was a model that involved changing the name of the organisation—I think that it was to “transport police Scotland”. That was a cap badge change and it did not deal with the fact that railway policing is now devolved and that we have to put a structure in place. That did not seem to be viable.

The third option was to consider having some sort of statutory accountability to the Parliament or to the SPA, while at the same time also having a line of accountability through the British Transport Police Authority, the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State for Transport, which in my view would have created greater confusion. It was difficult to understand how that would have created a sustainable line of accountability, because BTP policing in Scotland is a very small element of the BTP’s work across the whole of the UK. It was difficult to imagine how we would have asserted a level of accountability at a Scottish level that would have resulted in decisions being made across the rest of the UK. If there were disputes, how would they be resolved? My view was that that option would potentially have created greater confusion around accountability on such issues.

That brings us to the option that we are taking forward, which is that railway policing should be integrated, with a clear line of accountability to the chief constable, the Scottish Police Authority, the Parliament and the people of Scotland. There is greater transparency for how that will be taken forward.

I suppose that there is a fourth option, which could be to have a stand-alone transport policing constabulary in Scotland. Keep it in mind, however, that the BTP in Scotland has just over 200 officers. That option would not be sustainable, and such a force would not have the capacity to operate as a service with that level of personnel. In my view that would not have been a viable option.

Having clear accountability, a single command structure and specialist railway service delivery through Police Scotland, with access to the wider, specialist resources that Police Scotland has as and when necessary and on a routine basis, offered the best option to pursue, in our view, because we could not see how the other options would be viable.

10:30  



Liam McArthur

It is interesting that the option that you discounted as being too confusing and which would, perhaps, lead to misunderstandings around accountability, was the option that was being pursued by the Government in relation to energy regulation, as I understand it. Clearly, that option seems to have been satisfactory for some areas, but not this one.

Your point about stop and search, and your predecessor’s concerns about accountability and practice within the BTP, would be a little more convincing if that same predecessor Cabinet Secretary for Justice had accepted some responsibility for the levels of stop and search that were undertaken by Police Scotland at that time, which he dismissed as being an operational matter. To give you credit, you recognised the issue and took action. That is hardly a convincing argument for going down the route in the bill to fold the BTP within Police Scotland.

Michael Matheson

In fairness to my predecessor, the issue with the BTP existed pre-Police Scotland. The particular issue was not the numbers—

Liam McArthur

In that case, it makes what happened with Police Scotland even more of a grievance.

Michael Matheson

No. The issue was pre-Police Scotland. It was not about the volume of stop and search; it was about the number of people from black and minority ethnic communities who were being stopped—

Liam McArthur

It was also about the fact that stop and search was happening to children below the age of eight.

Michael Matheson

The principal issue—the very issue that you have highlighted in respect of Police Scotland—is that this is a very good and clear example of the benefits that come from accountability. I was pursued by one of your former colleagues in Parliament and acknowledged the concerns about the issue. We put in place a process to take the matter forward that involved Police Scotland, which resulted in a significant change in policy approach. That was because of the scrutiny that was applied by Parliament, and the process that the Government put in place to address the issue. We now have in place a policy and process to deal with the matter. At present, we actually do not have that opportunity with the BTP.

Liam McArthur

I presume that the action on stop and search addressed concerns that had been raised. I am not aware that profiling has been used for stop and search by the BTP.

Michael Matheson

The approach that was taken at that time reflected a pan-UK approach. The BTP is a pan-UK body, so it operated based on that principle.

Notwithstanding that, the difference is that with the integration of the BTP into Police Scotland, the accountability that we have in relation to Police Scotland on such issues is exactly the accountability that we will now have with BTP on railway policing, which we do not have at present.

Humza Yousaf

I will make a personal reflection, if I may. I understand that time is short. Before I was Minister for Transport and the Islands or even elected as an MSP to this Parliament, I was one of those young Asian males who were stopped often in the years after 9/11. Whether it happened at an airport or a train station, I did not, at the age of 18, 19 or 20, know that there was differentiation between the British Transport Police and other police. All I knew was that a copper was stopping me and I had no idea why. When that happened at airports, I was, as a young SNP activist in Glasgow, able to call the justice secretary and, indeed, people in the police. At that time, Allan Burnett was, I think, leading in the police in Scotland on counterterrorism work.

The Convener

I ask you to be brief—we are rather off the subject.

Humza Yousaf

My point is that I was able to get the police to engage with the mosque and the community. When stop and search happened under section 44 at a railway station, the same accountability did not exist. When I was within a mixed group of Asians and white people and I had been the only one who had been pulled out for a stop and search at a railway station, it did not feel like there was the same level of accountability as with the other police forces. I will not go on about the issue, but from the perspective of somebody who has been stopped and searched a number of times over the past 10 years, there seemed to be different levels of accountability. I want to put that on the record.

The Convener

The cabinet secretary outlined various options that he said would not work. The fact of the matter is that only one option was available—take it or leave it. Why were the other options not at least put out for consultation?

Michael Matheson

The Government had already come to a position; our view was that the best model was integration of railway policing into Police Scotland. We set that out over an extended period of time.

The Convener

I think that people will regret that. It has been a case of the Government deciding that an option will work and saying, “Take it or leave it,” whereas other options could have been looked at and fully fleshed out to see whether they were viable.

Ben Macpherson will be followed by Stewart Stevenson, then Rona Mackay. I have a long list of members who want to come in, so I ask members to be reasonably brief.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

I want to go back to retention of specialisms. Many of the concerns that we have heard from the British Transport Police are oriented around maintenance of a transport policing ethos, should the will of Parliament be that railway policing becomes part of Police Scotland. In your opening remarks you spoke about ACC Higgins’s commitment to maintaining a bespoke transport unit in Police Scotland, and his assurances that specialisms would be retained for the railway policing function. You also said that abstraction would not occur. So that we have a Government perspective as well as a Police Scotland perspective, will you state clearly that the Government is committed to maintaining a specialist railway policing function in Police Scotland, and to maintaining the specialisms and skills in the here and now, and in the medium to long term, through training?

We have spoken about the possibility of enhancing accountability by bringing railway policing into Police Scotland, but will you touch more on the operational benefits of the bill, as you see them?

Michael Matheson

We have been clear from the outset about our intentions on the integration of the BTP into Police Scotland. The specialist railway policing in Scotland that is currently delivered by the BTP is greatly valued, and we want that specialism to be retained and maintained in the railway policing that will be done by Police Scotland. You have heard evidence from ACC Higgins, who is leading on the matter for Police Scotland. He is an officer who has considerable expertise. When I heard that he had started his policing career back in 1988, I was struck by the fact that I was still at school then. He set out clearly the intention to have a specialist division, and you have had a letter from him that sets out how Police Scotland intends to enhance training for all police officers and how the specialist cohort for railway policing will receive enhanced training, as happens with other specialisms.

There is no doubt that, within the various specialist divisions in Police Scotland, there is a variety of cultures and ethoses; the ethos and culture around policing in more rural areas, for example, are different from those around policing in urban areas. I have witnessed that at first hand and spoken to officers in different areas. Within the same organisation, different approaches are taken in order to reflect circumstances, with different ethoses and cultures. That is already the case in general policing. The ethos in a highly specialised area such as armed policing is very different from the ethos in, say, community policing. The approach reflects the specialism and the highly skilled nature of the role. We have that in a variety of specialist areas of policing, including road, port and airport policing. I therefore expect the current ethos to be recognised and maintained and taken forward in how railway policing is delivered. From the comments that the committee received from the chief constable of the BTP and ACC Higgins, it seems that there is a determination on their part to work together to preserve, protect and maintain that ethos.

As I mentioned, ACC Higgins has set out clearly how Police Scotland will change the training for new officers coming into the force to extend the provision to cover railway policing. Therefore, officers will have a greater skill set and an understanding of railway policing, which does not exist at present. I believe that that will create more resilience and capacity in Police Scotland to deal with transport policing issues. At the same time, it will have a highly specialised cohort of officers to deliver the service that the BTP provides at present.

There is absolutely no doubt that policing in Scotland is now, since we moved to a single force, more accountable than it has ever been. Scrutiny of policing is also greater than it has ever been. It is a positive thing that additional scrutiny and accountability are being delivered.

The BTP is a United Kingdom-wide force—

Don McGillivray (Scottish Government)

The BTP is Great Britain wide.

Michael Matheson

I am sorry; I must get my terminology correct. The BTP is a GB-wide force whose command is based in Birmingham. The resource that it has here in Scotland serves us well, but it is of limited size and it depends on Police Scotland to supplement it in services in which it requires assistance. Integrating it will create greater accountability and give us greater coherence in how policing is delivered in a key part of Scotland’s public infrastructure.

Ben Macpherson

For clarity, what are the operational benefits of integration, as you see them?

Michael Matheson

The committee has heard from ACC Higgins, who said that integration will mean greater effectiveness and efficiency, and will allow routine use of resources and joint training exercises for events that the BTP must currently ask Police Scotland for. There will not be any such special requests: there will be no need for requests for special operations to be set up because such operations will happen as a matter of routine.

When it comes to decision making, a single command structure will speed up the process and give a better line of accountability. As I mentioned, the model that Police Scotland intends to use will create greater resilience in the service because more police officers will have an understanding of railway policing that they do not have at the moment, while we continue also to have the important cohort of specialist railway police officers.

Finally, one of the operational benefits will be that we will be able to look at how we police our infrastructure—roads, ports, airports, and railway system—to ensure that we benefit from the different approaches that they take, and that they learn from one another. The committee heard from rail service providers that such cross-fertilisation of ideas could be beneficial, as could learning from the BTP and how its skill sets can be used in other parts of Police Scotland to improve efficiency and effectiveness. No doubt the transport minister would talk about road policing and being able to open up roads more quickly. A variety of operational benefits will come from the merger; benefits will come to Police Scotland through learning from the approach that BTP officers take in handling situations.

Ben Macpherson

That is reassuring. Oliver Mundell made points that the legislation has the direction to improve and enhance the policing of our railways.

Michael Matheson

Nobody should be in any doubt that we want to deliver a service that is as good as, or better than, the one that we have at the moment on our railways, and to make sure that that standard of service puts safety as its top priority.

The other assurance is in the provision that is made for the railway policing agreement, which sets out for the railway industry and railway users what is expected of, and what will be delivered by, Police Scotland’s policing of our railways. It will give clear detail about what will be delivered and how it will be delivered, as the police service agreements do. The agreement will give assurances about the specialism that is being delivered and what will be delivered for the purposes of railway policing in Scotland.

The Convener

I have a list of members who have questions, so I am not going to allow supplementary questions. If members have a supplementary question, they should incorporate it into their first question. I would also be grateful if questioners and the cabinet secretary could cover their points as succinctly as possible.

10:45  



Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I want to develop a line of questioning about railway policing agreements, which have just been raised. When the railway operating companies appeared before the committee, I asked them whether their two tests for railway policing were, in what is essentially a commercial relationship, effectiveness and the cost of provision. They agreed that those were the two areas in which they would take most interest.

ACC Higgins has, inter alia, told us that there will be increased training for everyone up to the rank of inspector who might be first responders, so that they are better able to assist in incidents on the railway. There will therefore clearly be additional costs. Will those costs be incorporated into the railway policing agreements or will the situation be as it is at present—as was indicated to us by the rail companies—which is that when Police Scotland or the territorial force, rather than the BTP, attends a railway incident, Police Scotland simply bears the cost? Will that be the case with all the extra capability and the additional training that Police Scotland officers will have, too?

Humza Yousaf

There are a couple of points to make about that. First, I was pleased that, at the evidence-taking session with rail operators, every single one of them said that the engagement with Government had been constructive and positive. We wanted to ensure, from the very beginning, that engagement was constructive.

Secondly, on the substantial point about RPAs, I was pleased that rail operators viewed those as an opportunity to improve the current PSAs, for there to be more cross-fertilisation—as the cabinet secretary said—and for them to go into a greater level of detail, as opposed to their being a burden or a hindrance. I was very pleased that the operators shared our view on the matter.

ACC Higgins’s letter provides more detail to the committee: he makes the point that training is part of one of the joint programme board’s work streams. I think that everyone would agree that upskilling of 17,000 officers is a positive measure. ACC Higgins’s view—training is, of course, an operational matter—is that the service has been able, when it has had to adapt its training when previous legislative changes have been made, to do so within existing budgets and provision, and he will look to do the same with future changes.

We believe that integration of the BTP into Police Scotland will bring efficiencies that might well cover any costs that are associated with that integration. ACC Higgins—rightly—made the point that, if there are additional costs that the service cannot make provision for, he will revisit what he set out in his letter to the committee. That is a sensible approach.

Stewart Stevenson

There are clearly areas in which Police Scotland and the British Transport Police work together; I understand, for example, that the BTP gave up its cells in 2013 and has since then been using Police Scotland’s cells. I take it that such co-operation has not led to additional costs being fed through to the PSAs, and that similar collaboration, where there is no marginal cost to Police Scotland—because essentially it has no cost to Police Scotland—will not lead to additional costs for the rail operating companies to support what I understand to be an average of six arrests a day by the BTP.

Humza Yousaf

Your understanding is correct.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Before I ask my question, I want to pick up on the convener’s point about options. No other party made alternative proposals during the Scottish Government’s consultation. In addition, there was cross-party agreement in the Smith commission on the transfer of railway policing powers.

What is your position on deployment of Tasers? Will the use of Tasers change after railway policing is integrated into Police Scotland?

Michael Matheson

Deployment of Tasers for BTP officers is a matter for the British Transport Police’s chief constable. The current approach is based on a pan-UK assessment of their use; Tasers are deployed at stations at which the assessment has been that there is greater risk.

On integration of railway policing into Police Scotland, deployment of Tasers or any other specialist asset of that nature—firearms officers and so on—will be a matter for the chief constable of Police Scotland. Again, that will be based on threat-risk assessment and consideration of what the proportionate response would be.

Rona Mackay

I believe that, in Scotland, it is firearms officers who use Tasers, but that that is not the case south of the border. How would that situation pan out?

Michael Matheson

That is correct. In Scotland, officers who are deployed with Tasers are qualified firearms officers, but that is not the case in England and Wales. My understanding is that the BTP officers who are deployed with Tasers are trained in the use of Tasers but are not firearms officers. The model that is taken forward by Police Scotland—again, this is an operational matter for the chief constable—is that officers who are deployed with Tasers should be qualified firearms officers, and it would be for the chief constable to determine both whether he felt that there was a need for Tasers and how that asset would be appropriately deployed.

The Convener

On options, the Smith commission said that the British Transport Police would be devolved—it did not say integrated. However, there is only one option on the table. That is the point.

Liam McArthur

I would like to follow up on training provision. What is expected to be the likely cost of the additional training provision for Police Scotland officers?

Humza Yousaf

That is being worked on as part of the work of the joint programme board on which we, the UK Government and stakeholders sit. Of course, there would have to be a training needs assessment—there have been such assessments when other pieces of legislation have passed through this Parliament—and if it is the will of Parliament to pass the bill, that work will be done.

I cannot give Liam McArthur a figure right now, but I think that ACC Higgins gave a clear answer when he said that the cost of that training could be met under the current provision. However, he also said in his letter that he would revisit the issue if that was found not to be the case after the process has had some time to work through.

Liam McArthur

I can understand that there might be some detail that has to be worked through, but we have been told very confidently about the efficiencies that will be delivered through the bill and the integration of the BTP and Police Scotland. However, if a training provision of such magnitude is going to be required across the force, it is not entirely clear how that confidence is justified at this stage.

Humza Yousaf

As ACC Higgins said in his letter, the only difference between the training of a Police Scotland officer and that of a BTP officer is the additional two weeks. He is saying that, for new recruits, an additional two to three weeks of training provision will be included, so that they have capability with regard to track safety and so on. As the cabinet secretary has said, ACC Higgins has considerable experience; if the cabinet secretary was still at school when ACC Higgins started in the police force, I was still in nappies.

We are looking at where we can secure efficiencies, and we believe that that will be possible with the corporate functions. Just to take one element of that, we believe that we can secure roughly £800,000 of savings with regard to the amount that is paid to senior management GB-wide, and we believe that those efficiencies can cover the additional training cost. However, I go back to the fact that training is an operational matter, and that ACC Higgins is right to say in his letter to the committee that, if the costs are beyond what Police Scotland thinks can be covered, the matter will be revisited.

Liam McArthur

So each officer will have the track safety certificate as a result of that training. Will officers also be subject to the on-going biennial training and pass-or-fail process to retain those certificates?

Humza Yousaf

That will be a decision for Police Scotland to make. In ACC Higgins’s letter to the committee, he said that there would have to be a training needs assessment. Officers already have continual training on a regular basis, with refresher courses throughout their career.

Liam McArthur

In response to legitimate questions that we have asked about the bill, we are being told things that are meant to provide reassurance. However, we know that Police Scotland is under pressure to increase training on dealing with people with mental health issues, and the cabinet secretary has talked about firearms issues—there are continuing pressures on the police to adapt their training to respond to different demands and risks. Is it realistic to assume that three, four or five years down the line, the undertakings on training that ACC Higgins gave us are likely to be maintained, or are they simply part of an offer that is being made at a point of transition in order to facilitate the bill’s passage through Parliament?

Michael Matheson

I will pick up on that, because it is largely an operational matter. There are three elements in what ACC Higgins set out. First, Police Scotland is looking to change the training module for new recruits to provide them with an extra two weeks’ training of the sort that BTP officers currently get. ACC Higgins also said that he is looking at how to upskill existing officers, and a training needs analysis will be done to find out how that can best be achieved.

It is not unusual for such training to be provided for existing officers. For example, officers are currently going through a training programme on the new code of practice for stop and search. There is also a training module on the provisions in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, including the new provisions on custody and interim liberation that were considered by your predecessor committee. That type of on-going training, which builds in modules on changes in legislation and process, is not unfamiliar to the police, and is actually quite common.

I have mentioned two areas in which training is taking place. The 2016 act makes provisions in a range of areas that will result in changes for the police—

Liam McArthur

Sorry, but you are making almost the same point that I made. Should it be a priority for Police Scotland to build in the training module that you have described, which covers two to three weeks at the initial stage followed by on-going training, given the existing pressures on the police to adapt to new legislation, changing circumstances and the like?

Michael Matheson

We will move towards that training further down the line if the Parliament agrees to integration. That type of upskilling is not unusual in Police Scotland. Training will be built in for officers when they come into the service, and there will be upskilling for those who are already in the service.

The other important aspect relates to specialist service provision: there will be training for officers who will be carrying out the type of specialist functions that the BTP currently undertakes. ACC Higgins referred to specialist training to gain what I think he called an in-card qualification—for example, firearms officers and other specialist officers receive on-going training on the area in which they operate.

Training will be taken forward at different levels. It is worth keeping in mind that the bill proposes a model for delivering railway policing that is the same as the current cost-charging model, in which the railway industry pays the police for the service that it receives. We have set out in the legislation our intent that the on-going provision of railway policing will be paid for by the railway industry. In that sense, the bill provides greater financial security and certainty around the resources that will be deployed, as that will be part of the railway policing agreement.

Liam McArthur

On the point that you make about specialism, the industry has a couple of key concerns—as Stewart Stevenson highlighted—about the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the set-up. It has expressed understandable concern at suggestions that around 40 per cent of the BTP officers are expressing some anxiety about remaining in the force, and are thinking about either taking redundancy or leaving the force, simply because it will not be the force that they chose to join. What assurances can you give the committee in that regard?

On the point about the future structure, the financial memorandum to the bill states:

“No changes to the senior command structure within Police Scotland are planned.”

Is there a concern that BTP officers will be folded into a Police Scotland command structure that does not currently recognise at a senior level the specialisms and expertise that they possess? How will that expertise and specialist knowledge be represented in a command structure that will not change?

Michael Matheson

You mentioned the concern about the 40 per cent. I am not sure where that figure comes from.

Liam McArthur

The BTPA staff assessment says 37.5 per cent.

Michael Matheson

Is that from the TSSA survey?

Liam McArthur

Yes.

Michael Matheson

That was not police officers—it was police staff.

11:00  



Liam McArthur

Even for police staff, is that not a concern?

Michael Matheson

I just say that for clarification. The figure that you referred to was in the survey of police staff that the TSSA carried out.

Liam McArthur

Are you confident that there is not a similar figure among officers?

Michael Matheson

You made reference to there being 40 per cent who are near leaving, so I am just clarifying that.

I understand from the survey details that the 40 per cent who said that they would leave said that on the basis of expecting to retire or to be made redundant. There is no redundancy policy: all staff will transfer to Police Scotland, if they choose to do so.

Liam McArthur

From the discussions that you have had, you do not believe that the figure is anything like 37.5 per cent.

Michael Matheson

No—I am not questioning the validity of the 37.5 per cent figure; I am clarifying that it is not 40 per cent of people in the BTP. It was a survey of the BTP staff, which I understand was carried out by the TSSA. The figure was based primarily on staff saying that they thought that they would be made redundant or be taking retirement.

The only point that I am making to you is that there is no redundancy policy. We as a Government do not have a compulsory redundancy policy and, as has already been made clear, the BTP staff will transfer to Police Scotland—both officers and staff will transfer to Police Scotland.

I am just clarifying exactly what that figure of 40 per cent is about. It was not a survey of officers, as far as I understand; it was a survey of the staff cohort.

In relation to the Police Scotland command structure, it is worth keeping in mind that a number of our ACCs hold responsibility for a range of specialisms in the service. For example, ACC Higgins holds responsibility for policing airways and roads; he also has responsibility for the dog and under water specialisms, and for some aspects of custody. It is not unusual for senior operational officers to have responsibility for a range of specialisms. You will often find, below those ranks, officers who have the specialist skill set to deliver those services. As ACC Higgins said in his evidence to you—if I recall correctly—the staff who will transfer into Police Scotland will include the senior ranks of the BTP.

I just want to reassure you that, on there being no plans to change the command structure within Police Scotland, having another specialism would not be unusual, given the way in which the police service presently operates.

Liam McArthur

Are you saying that there would be senior roles, albeit within the same command structure?

Michael Matheson

It will be for one of the senior officers within that command structure to have command responsibilities for railway policing, in the way that they now have for road, air, port, airport or border policing, or for the dog unit. ACCs have specific responsibilities in those areas, as well as in areas such as counter-terrorism and tackling serious and organised crime. We have ACCs who have specialist responsibility for taking those policy areas forward.

It is an operational matter for the chief constable, but from what ACC Higgins has said, railway policing will move into one of those specialist command areas. It will then be for the police to ensure that a structure is in place that ensures that the right skill set is there to deliver that specialism, as they do with existing specialisms.

Oliver Mundell

I will ask three brief questions, and then I will return to my original line of questioning.

How many requests from the British Transport Police have been turned down by Police Scotland?

Michael Matheson

I do not have that information, but we can ask Police Scotland to provide it to the committee.

Oliver Mundell

Okay. My next question is probably for the transport minister. To set the whole cross-border jurisdictional issue in context, do you know how many passengers and rail services cross the border on a daily basis?

Humza Yousaf

I can get that information to you. I have written to the UK minister with responsibility for railways, Paul Maynard, at the DFT. I will share his response with the committee as it might be helpful. He simply says that, whatever we in Scotland decide to do, constructive cross-border working will continue. That is his perspective, and it is ours.

I can get you the exact figures for services and passengers.

Oliver Mundell

That would be helpful.

Do you have any idea of where you envisage BTP officers being based? I am thinking in particular of my Dumfriesshire constituency, which the west coast main line runs through. Where do you see the first rail specialist officers across the border being based?

Humza Yousaf

Again, that is, of course, an operational matter for Police Scotland, but I do not envisage the BTP officers who are currently based in your constituency having to move away from it. The cabinet secretary might want to add to that; indeed, Police Scotland might want to answer that question.

Oliver Mundell

That is the point of my question. The BTP officers who currently cover my constituency might well be based at Carlisle station, just over the border. I am not aware of them being based at Lockerbie, Dumfries or Gretna, for example. Where do you see them being based?

Michael Matheson

It will ultimately be for the chief constable to determine where they should be based in order to give effect to the agreements that will have been put in place for the delivery of railway policing in Scotland. The reality is that the vast majority of the BTP’s assets in Scotland are held in the central belt, largely at our major train stations. However, it will ultimately be for the chief constable to determine where officers are located, as is the case for police officers just now. We do not determine where they are located; that is an operational issue.

Oliver Mundell

With such a big change coming and with the M74/M6 motorway corridor, some of the principal power lines that transfer electricity south of the border and the west coast main line all sitting close together, do you think that, ahead of the bill going through Parliament, my constituents deserve some reassurance about the specific cover that will be in place for that section of the railway and how things will operate on a practical basis?

Michael Matheson

That is a good illustration of the need to ensure that we have a single command structure to deal with major infrastructure issues and that we consider all those issues. In policing the roads or major bits of infrastructure, including the railways, we must have a command structure that is able to look at things in a broader context and respond in an appropriate way. However—

Oliver Mundell

I am sorry to interrupt, cabinet secretary, but that is exactly the point. It is impossible to have a single command structure in the section of the west coast main line between Carlisle and Lockerbie, where there are a number of important pieces of infrastructure. Co-operation by Police Scotland, the management of the motorway and others is already required. We need to be very clear about how things would operate in practice. Saying that the matter is an operational one is not enough. People need to know at least what the operational intention would be under that model before the bill goes through the Parliament.

Michael Matheson

Right now, the motorway is policed across the border, and that functions well.

I will differ from the member here, because I think that we get on to very dangerous ground if politicians start to set down where resources will be deployed. That has been a long-standing issue for chief constables, not only in the territorial forces, but in the BTP. I am confident—

Oliver Mundell

In principle, would you be open to the British Transport Police officers who are based in Carlisle continuing to cover that section of the railway and operating within Scotland?

Michael Matheson

I would have no problem with that, if that was the approach of the chief constable of Police Scotland. If Parliament agrees that we should integrate railway policing into Police Scotland, and if that would be the best way to deliver the service, I would have no problem with that at all in principle. However, that is ultimately a matter for the chief constables, and we should respect their operational independence.

Oliver Mundell

I want to go back briefly to my original line of questioning. I have heard you talk about scrutiny and accountability. Obviously, a number of transformational changes and significant challenges are still on-going in Police Scotland. Do you accept that, with a current system that appears to be working well and in which Police Scotland does not routinely turn down requests from the British Transport Police, this is an odd time to further add to the burdens that exist? There have been proposals to close police stations in my constituency, and there is a budget that seems to be out of control. We heard that there would be big efficiencies in creating Police Scotland, but they simply have not transpired. Is this a risky point in the process to add further complexity and change?

Michael Matheson

The reality is that the responsibility for railway policing is being devolved to the Scottish Parliament and we need to put in place a structure to deliver that. We might differ on—

Oliver Mundell

But you have chosen the timing. You have talked about accountability, but are you not accountable for choosing to undertake integration at a time when there are big challenges for Police Scotland in pushing ahead with another substantive change?

Michael Matheson

The decision to devolve was taken with cross-party agreement. We might differ—

Oliver Mundell

But there is a difference between devolving and implementing.

Michael Matheson

If you let me finish, I have a point to make. We might differ in our views of the model that we are taking forward, but the reality is that there was cross-party agreement on—

Oliver Mundell

I differ on the timing.

Michael Matheson

If you will let me finish my point—

The Convener

Let the cabinet secretary finish.

Michael Matheson

There was cross-party agreement that railway policing in Scotland should be devolved. That has been taking place and we need to put a structure in place to take account of that. We might differ in our view of what that structure should be, but the reality is that the status quo is not an option and that we need to put a process and structure in place. We are taking forward the approach and the model that we think can best deliver accountability. Clearly, you have a different view on the matter, but the status quo is not an option, given that a decision was made on a cross-party basis that railway policing in Scotland should be devolved.

Oliver Mundell

But there is a big difference between devolving something and implementing it. What I question is whether this is the right time to push ahead with implementation—that is what we differ on. However, I thank you for your responses.

Michael Matheson

You might disagree with our choice of model, but the status quo is not an option, because we have been given legislative competence on the matter but we do not have a process of accountability for the exercise of that competence. If something happens on our railways that the Scottish Parliament and its members are not happy about, they expect the Government to be held to account for it and explain matters, which is what has happened with our transport minister recently. It cannot be a case of, “It’s been devolved, but we’ll just ignore it even though we’ve got responsibility for it.” We have to put something in place. You might disagree with our choice of model, but we need to put a process in place.

The Convener

Could I just press the cabinet secretary on that point? Has any other legislative competence been devolved on which you have not done anything but are deferring action until a better time?

Michael Matheson

In relation to policing?

The Convener

No, in relation to anything that has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Michael Matheson

To my knowledge, there is nothing in relation to policing matters.

The Convener

For example, it has been decided that welfare powers will be devolved, but perhaps that has been delayed because the time is not right. I think that Oliver Mundell’s point was that the fact that something has been devolved does not mean that the Government has to act on it at this moment. Is that the case, or is that wrong?

Michael Matheson

It would be wrong to characterise the social security provisions as not being taken forward. The timeframe for those is because of—

The Convener

Can you respond to the substantive point?

Michael Matheson

—the complexity relating to some of the pan-UK benefits. It is therefore about making sure that those provisions are taken forward correctly; it is not about not implementing them.

We have to put something in place for railway policing in Scotland because the status quo is not an option, as we have been given devolved competence for railway policing. We cannot have devolved competence for it but say that we will not do anything about it and just leave it as it is. You might take issue with the timeframe involved, but the fact is that responsibility for railway policing has been devolved. If the Parliament passes the bill, there will be almost a two-year window before the BTP in Scotland will be integrated with Police Scotland. Bernard Higgins described that timeframe as “a luxury” compared with what Police Scotland went through with—

The Convener

I think that we have got the answer to the question. Thank you, cabinet secretary.

Michael Matheson

You cannot ignore the reality of where we are.

The Convener

Thank you.

Mairi Evans (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

Harking back to a point that was made earlier, I have a supplementary question. Cabinet secretary, you said that you have four train stations in your constituency that have no British Transport Police officers; in my constituency of Angus North and Mearns, I have three train stations that are in exactly the same position. We have also talked about the BTP presence being mainly focused on the central belt, with little coverage of the areas outwith that. The figures that the BTP sent us show that, north of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Dundee station has about five officers and Aberdeen and Inverness stations have similar numbers. I certainly feel that I can take some comfort from the fact that, if officers in Police Scotland receive more training, we will have an enhanced service when it comes to incidents on the railways in areas such as the north-east and the Highlands and Islands. Can you confirm that that will be the case?

11:15  



Michael Matheson

It is probably more important to ascertain the view of Police Scotland on those matters. That was made clear in the evidence that you heard from Assistant Chief Constable Higgins and in the letter that he provided on upskilling a greater number of officers in Police Scotland to deal with railway issues while at the same time having the specialist skill set that is necessary to meet some of the specific challenges that arise in the railway sector.

Benefits will come to Police Scotland from some of the processes that the BTP uses, which could be used to reform or change some of the ways in which Police Scotland operates. A two-way benefit will come from the process.

One of the wider results that I believe will be achieved is greater resilience in how we police our railways. It will no longer be necessary for the BTP to make a request or for particular operations to be organised on a joint basis. As and when resource is required, it will be deployed. If that is done on a routine basis, it will be done on a routine basis. If it is done on a specialist basis, it will be done on a specialist basis. The process will be much simpler than what we have at present. I believe that it will provide greater capacity in delivering railway policing in Scotland, alongside a service of a specialist nature that can be deployed as and when necessary, in the necessary locations and where the chief constable views that it should be based.

Mairi Evans

I will move on to a point that Liam McArthur raised, on the staff survey that was carried out by the TSSA. I would like confirmation of the point that you made earlier. The TSSA said that it was a “reasonable belief” that, as BTP-contracted staff were being forced to switch employers, redundancy must become an option prior to or after 1 April 2019. I asked the TSSA witness whether he believed that to be the case—if TSSA had checked out that information either with Police Scotland or with the Government. He answered:

“It is the case. We have checked it out.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 61.]

Can you provide clarity on the issue of redundancy?

Humza Yousaf

Just to reiterate what the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has said, the point about that staff survey is that 37.5 per cent of respondents expected either to retire or to take redundancy. We have a no compulsory redundancy policy, so I can give an absolute assurance that, when we are talking about transferring staff and officers, the triple-lock guarantees their jobs, so there should be no concerns about that. The Government’s policy has absolutely been that there should be no compulsory redundancies.

I sent a letter to Manuel Cortes, the head of the TSSA, reiterating those points. I do not know why there would be a gap in information. I would certainly be happy to continue conversations with the TSSA, but our policy is one of no compulsory redundancies, if the transfer takes place with staff as employees of Police Scotland.

Mairi Evans

There is a further point that I wish to clarify. I also asked the TSSA witness at the same Justice Committee meeting how many people had taken part in that survey. He did not answer that question, nor did the TSSA answer it in the supplementary written evidence that it provided.

The TSSA also said that it believed that its staff would receive £3,000 less. From its supplementary evidence to the committee, it seems that it was making a comparison between the positions that its staff hold now and similar positions being advertised in Police Scotland. Can you confirm the situation with salaries? When I asked the witness whether that was just something that the TSSA believed to be the case or whether it had pursued it with either Police Scotland or the Government, he said:

“It is the case. We have checked it out.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 61.]

I would like to clarify that with you.

Humza Yousaf

The triple-lock guarantee involves terms and conditions. In his evidence to the committee, ACC Higgins made the point that a number of sets of terms and conditions and pension schemes operate. He gave his own personal example of the allowances that he is able to get that other officers cannot, because they joined later. Police Scotland is able—as a structure, an organisation and an institution—to incorporate a number of different terms and conditions, and that is nothing new for it. The protection for terms and conditions would of course apply to salary levels; the TSSA should have every assurance about that from the letters that I have given and the conversations that I have had—I met Manuel Cortes directly on that issue. I will continue to give assurances where I can that, when we talk about a triple-lock guarantee protecting the terms and conditions, that includes salaries, entitlements and pensions. Those issues are all being worked on through the joint programme board at the moment, and the BTPA and BTPF have been very engaged in that.

Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I was not going to mention this matter, but the cabinet secretary thinks that it is a significant issue and we have heard from Fulton MacGregor and Rona Mackay that they have questions about Opposition parties not responding to the Government consultation. From 1999 to 2007, how often did the Scottish National Party respond to Executive consultations offering viable alternatives? I take it that that was 100 per cent of the time?

Michael Matheson

I do not think that that would be the case. I see that Stewart Stevenson—

Douglas Ross

I am asking you the question. You do not think that that always happened.

Michael Matheson

I do not think that what always happens—that parties respond to consultations?

Douglas Ross

That the Opposition parties responded to the Scottish Executive consultations.

Michael Matheson

Yes; there have been times in the past when they have.

Douglas Ross

You are suggesting that every party should have responded this time. Do you accept that the SNP—

Michael Matheson

I do not think that I have suggested that.

Douglas Ross

I think that you have.

The Convener

I think that the position was brought up by Rona Mackay. It is not really germane to the issue. Perhaps Rona should not have brought it up in the first place. I ask Douglas Ross to move on.

Douglas Ross

The cabinet secretary raised the matter as well.

I ask the cabinet secretary and the minister whether they base their decisions on evidence and advice from senior officers and officials.

Michael Matheson

The answer is yes—on many issues.

Douglas Ross

I will give you a couple of quotes to see what your response is.

Deputy Chief Constable Hanstock of the British Transport Police said:

“We have not been able to identify any operational or economic benefits”

of this merger. Steven Mannion, former commander of the BTP in Scotland said:

“You can police the railways without BTP, but you cannot it police it as effectively.”

The chief executive of the BTPA has said that it has identified several hundred security risks to the merger, and ACC Higgins—an officer whom the cabinet secretary described as having “considerable” experience—said to this committee:

“There is a risk that, on transfer, the skill base will be diluted ... There is a risk that the terms and conditions might be diluted ... There is also a risk on the financial side. It is necessary to ensure that Police Scotland is properly compensated for taking on the additional responsibility.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 29.]

Those are all risks that we recognise. What is the Government’s views on the risks that have been highlighted by Police Scotland, by the BTP, by the BTPA, and by many others?

Michael Matheson

I do not think that anyone would dispute that there are risks associated with the integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland. The question is how we manage those risks and how we put in place the appropriate processes to deal with them effectively. That is exactly what the joint programme board is about—identifying those risk factors and then putting in place the appropriate mechanisms and processes to deal with them and to make sure that we have a process of oversight on how they are taken forward.

I do not think that anybody would suggest that there are no risks associated with this merger. There were risks associated with moving to a single force. There are risks day in, day out in how policing is taken forward, and in how any of our emergency services are taken forward. The merger of any element of our public services will have risks associated with it. I am confident from the advice that I have been provided and from the approach that we are taking that those risks can be appropriately managed and that we can put in place a process that will ensure that we have a mechanism that is able to mitigate the risks and put in place the appropriate level of service agreement with the industry that reflects what it believes is necessary to deliver railway policing in Scotland effectively.

Douglas Ross

Cabinet secretary, you said:

“Nobody should be in any doubt that we want to deliver a service that is as good as, or better than, the one”

that is currently delivered. Do you therefore agree with the Rail Delivery Group that integrating the service is not in the interests of passengers?

Michael Matheson

I believe that this will deliver a better service for passengers.

Douglas Ross

Do you not agree with the Rail Delivery Group?

Michael Matheson

I do not agree with it. We will deliver a better service. The reason for that is the range of officers who will be trained to operate within our railway service alongside the specialist function, which will give greater capacity than what we have at the moment.

Douglas Ross

That neatly comes on to training, which I want to focus on now. You could not answer Liam McArthur’s questions about the cost of training. However, I presume that you will be able to provide to the committee the average cost of the current 11-week training process and, from that, you can calculate the weekly cost, multiply that by the additional three weeks of training that ACC Higgins refers to in his letter and say what the costs will be based on the number of new recruits. Those costs will be available to the committee. Is that correct?

Michael Matheson

Information of that type will be available to the committee, although I would warn you against applying such a simple analysis to how the cost is calculated. You are being overly simplistic in how the cost would be calculated, which would be rather naive. You must recognise that, although additional training capacity might be provided, the cost will be different. There will not be all the same additional overhead costs of bringing in folk for a bespoke piece of training completely outwith their usual, routine programme, but the principle—

Douglas Ross

Yes, but the training will—

Michael Matheson

If the member will let me finish the point that I am trying to make, I will tell him that the information for which he is looking should be available and Police Scotland should be able to provide it.

Douglas Ross

But ACC Higgins said in his letter that there will be an additional three weeks of training—it will go up from 11 to 14 weeks. There are stable costs involved in putting all our new officers through an additional three weeks of training at Tulliallan. Therefore, on a basic and potentially naive level—I take on board your criticism—we will be able to look at those costs.

Michael Matheson

That data will be available.

Douglas Ross

What about the further costs associated with the personal track safety certificates. Did you suggest in your evidence to Liam McArthur that you do not believe that all 1,700-plus police officers in Scotland will have that PTSC?

Michael Matheson

We have 17,000 police officers in Scotland. It will be for Police Scotland to determine what the training programme will be, so—

Douglas Ross

Do you think that they should all have that certificate?

Michael Matheson

It is not for me to determine that; it is for Police Scotland to determine that.

Douglas Ross

Do you, as cabinet secretary, think that they should all have that certificate?

Michael Matheson

Let me just explain before you interrupt me again.

Bernard Higgins has set out that there will be a training programme for new recruits coming into the service, as well as for existing officers. How that training will be taken forward and what will be delivered will be determined on the basis of a training needs analysis—TNA. That will be developed in partnership with Police Scotland’s colleagues at the BTP. On top of that, there will be additional training for those officers who are providing the specialist railway function. If officers require specialist qualifications, the training needs analysis will determine how that should be delivered and who should receive that special training. Whether it will be a case of all 17,000 officers receiving that certificate or whether it will be the cohort that will operate in railway policing is a decision for Police Scotland.

Douglas Ross

But what do you think? I am asking you a question as the Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Do you think that all 17,000-plus officers in Scotland should have that certificate? I am asking you because you are here giving evidence. I would appreciate you telling us your answer, your opinion, your belief. Should they all have that certificate or not?

The Convener

I wonder if—

Michael Matheson

Let me give you my opinion.

The Convener

The clerk has just passed me a note setting out what the BTPF has said—that no officer should go near the railway if they do not have a PTS certificate. That is the point.

Michael Matheson

Let me give the member an answer to his question—and I will be very clear about what that answer is. That is an operational decision for Police Scotland to make. I do not direct Police Scotland on how many officers it should have in air support, road policing or firearms roles, or on the qualifications that those officers should have. I am not going to start setting that out for railway policing.

Douglas Ross

When I asked Neil Curtis, of Direct Rail Services Ltd, and Darren Horley, of Virgin Trains, what their reaction would be if Police Scotland said that it would not put every officer through the PTSC process, Neil Curtis said that he would be “concerned” and Darren Horley said that he would be “very concerned”. Do you accept that, if Police Scotland does not take that operational decision and the chief constable decides not to ensure that all officers have that certificate, rail operators would be “concerned” and “very concerned”?

Michael Matheson

I have no doubt that, as ACC Higgins made clear, if this Parliament makes a decision to integrate railway policing into Police Scotland, Police Scotland will engage with the railway industry. It has done that already—it has been engaged in some of the meetings that have been taking place with the Minister for Transport and the Islands in trying to address railway operators’ concerns. It might be that their concern can be addressed. That might—or might not—result in more extensive training being provided. However, I have no doubt that Police Scotland will engage with them to explore and discuss that concern.

Douglas Ross

Is the level of additional training required more or less than the upskill that was required as a result of the stop and search procedural changes?

Michael Matheson

Are you referring to the training that will be delivered on railway policing?

Douglas Ross

Yes—the training that is needed to upskill all our officers. Do you accept my assumption that a larger process will be needed if we are to ensure that all 17,000-plus officers in Scotland are given training on railway policing that is more detailed than the training that was provided on the changes to the stop and search procedure?

Michael Matheson

I suspect that you will get a clearer answer on that from Police Scotland once it has completed its training needs analysis.

11:30  



Douglas Ross

As parliamentarians and as a committee, we are taking a decision prior to that. Would you accept that, given that the bulk of the £2.8 million cost of the changes to the stop-and-search procedure was spent on training, we are looking at a far higher figure for training on the changes arising from the integration of railway policing, as more than 17,000 officers will need to be upskilled in that area?

Michael Matheson

We do not know that, given that the training needs analysis has not yet been completed.

Douglas Ross

Do you think that it is a fair assumption?

Michael Matheson

It is possibly a fair assumption on your part, but others may want to wait until the training needs analysis has been carried out.

Douglas Ross

Can we be realistic if possible? For stop and search, we are talking about a change to the procedure. For railway policing, we are talking about asking more than 17,000 officers, none of whom decided to go into a specialised force that would allow them to concentrate on that area, to take over that role. It is a fairly safe assumption that the amount of money and time involved in training officers on railway policing will in fact be significantly greater than was the case for training on the amended stop and search procedure.

Michael Matheson

Again, we do not know that information until the training needs analysis has been completed.

Douglas Ross

Do you think that online delivery will be the most effective way to provide training, as ACC Higgins suggested?

Michael Matheson

Again, that will be an operational matter for Police Scotland, which will determine—as it does just now—how it can best effect the training of its officers.

Douglas Ross

I have concerns about that.

Oliver Mundell and others have raised the issue of timing. You mentioned the comment from ACC Higgins that having a timeframe of two years is a “luxury”, which I presume you accept is a criticism of the way in which the SNP Government centralised the police in Scotland.

Given the problems that occurred as a result of the merger that created Police Scotland, and the two-year timeframe that has been set out for the integration of the BTP, do you still think that now is the right time for that integration to take place? Oliver Mundell and the convener also asked about that. Powers have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament that enable integration to be enacted—although it does not necessarily have to be carried out in the way in which you are going about it—but there is no timeframe in that regard.

At a time when there are significant issues with low morale in Police Scotland, should it be taking on board the additional challenges that would arise from the integration of the BTP with Police Scotland?

Michael Matheson

First, I will deal with the issue of moving to a single force. With all due respect, the legislation that provided for the move to a national service was supported by your party—

Douglas Ross

Not at stage 3.

The Convener

We—the Conservatives—abstained on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill, the Liberals voted against it and others voted for it. I have put that on the record, so let us move on.

Michael Matheson

The term “luxury” was used by ACC Higgins—

Douglas Ross

You repeated it today.

Michael Matheson

He was talking about taking forward the integration of the BTP in the light of the challenges that were experienced in integrating eight territorial forces into a single police service. His view was that the timeframe of two years for integrating the BTP with Police Scotland was a luxury in comparison. You can interpret that as a criticism of what happened with Police Scotland, or you may say that it reflects the greater complexity involved in merging eight forces rather than integrating a specialist division that has around 200 officers who provide railway policing in Scotland.

On the timing, I suppose that, for those who oppose the idea of integrating the BTP with Police Scotland, no time would be a good time to do it. No matter what time we chose to do it, they would oppose it and argue that it was the wrong thing to do. From the discussions that I have had with Police Scotland, I believe that it is more than capable of taking forward over the next two years the integration of the BTP into the service—if that is the will of the Parliament—and delivering effective railway policing.

Douglas Ross

The concern about morale came from Calum Steele, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, who spoke at the SPF conference today. He painted a depressing picture of relations with the SPA and morale issues in Police Scotland. He told the committee that the SPF has not taken a position on integration, as it is not for it to do so. However, when the Scottish Police Federation is telling its conference that your single police force has morale issues, you would surely consider that now is not the time to add to the burden on the force by integrating the BTP, which is a very successful organisation, with an organisation that is still struggling with the challenges of integrating eight legacy forces into one.

Michael Matheson

It is also fair to say that Calum Steele, in his evidence to the committee, recognised some of the risks and challenges of integration, but his view is that none of them is insurmountable. On your point that now is not the time, the reality is that it is not happening now. The legislation is before Parliament now, but integration would not take place until April 2019.

Mary Fee

I want to briefly return to the issue of Tasers, as I want to be absolutely clear about it, cabinet secretary. You said that, if integration goes ahead, it would be an operational matter for Police Scotland whether transport policing officers in Scotland carry Tasers, so we are left with two possible scenarios. If a decision is made that railway policing officers in Scotland do not need to carry Tasers after integration—if it goes ahead—we will have a situation in which they are not carried in Scotland but railway policing officers in the rest of the UK carry them. However, if the decision is taken for railway policing officers in Scotland to carry Tasers, they will also be required to be trained in firearms—at substantial cost, presumably—although officers in the rest of the UK will not.

Michael Matheson

It is worth keeping in mind that the extent of Taser deployment, which is to a limited number of train stations in Scotland, is on a smaller scale than it is in other parts of the UK. I believe that that is reflected in part in the risk assessment that the BTP conducted with regard to where it thinks Tasers are necessary. For example, in many of the train stations that are now covered by Tasers, many of the BTP officers do not actually have Tasers, as only a limited number of Tasers are deployed in those locations. That deployment was discussed with the BTP and it reflects the pan-UK approach that it was taking at the time, based on its threat and risk analysis of those particular facilities.

That is not different from what Police Scotland would do now with regard to major infrastructure issues that it is responsible for policing. Police Scotland would deploy and respond to those issues in a way that it thinks is appropriate and proportionate given the intelligence and the risk and threat assessment that it makes. For example, nobody would question that some of the risks in places such as central London are greater than they are in other parts of the country and we would expect deployment to reflect a chief constable’s risk analysis.

Mary Fee made the point about a difference in approach with the UK if the chief constable of Police Scotland were to decide not to deploy Tasers in train stations, but it is worth keeping in mind that there are already differences, because there are forces in England and Wales that routinely deploy Tasers in a way that Police Scotland does not. It is ultimately for the chief constable to make that determination.

Mr Finnie would probably be able to cite the approach that was taken by Police Scotland to the deployment of firearms officers in the Highlands, about which concerns were raised. That deployment was on the basis of a pan-Scotland approach to the threat assessment. It would be for the chief constable to look at the whole country, to determine whether to take a bespoke approach in different parts of the country based on the risk and to deploy an appropriate model.

It is a matter for the chief constable, and it is not as straightforward as deciding to do it or not to do it. A whole range of factors must be taken into account in the type of dynamic assessment that is carried out. The reality is that we already have differences across the UK with regard to the deployment of firearms officers—they are used for different routine policing matters—and Taser officers. For example, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is an armed service.

I am confident that we have a command structure that will make sure that we can look at the wider issue of infrastructure policing in Scotland; take an informed decision on the basis of intelligence and understanding of the associated threat and risk; and then deploy appropriately.

Douglas Ross

All members have just received an email from the Parliament’s chief executive that says that, from today, Police Scotland will be routinely patrolling the Scottish Parliament and the public area outside the Parliament with Tasers. That is not based on any threat to the building. You were talking about a dynamic assessment but, given the events in London last week, and in light of that email, do you think that the regular deployment of Tasers, whether it be in large public areas such as railway stations or indeed public buildings such as the Parliament will change?

Michael Matheson

I am conscious that we are going off the subject of the bill. I was aware of the approach that Police Scotland is taking. It is a good example of the dynamic nature of Police Scotland’s assessment of such issues, looking at the intelligence and the threat, and deploying in what it believes to be an appropriate way.

Douglas Ross is correct that the deployment of officers with Tasers at the Scottish Parliament is not based on any specific intelligence or threat to the Scottish Parliament. It is being taken forward on a precautionary basis because Police Scotland and the parliamentary authorities are conducting a review of the policing and security arrangements in the Scottish Parliament while reflecting on the events that took place at Westminster last week. That review will be conducted during the next couple of weeks.

The announcement is a reflection of the ability to respond proportionately to a set of circumstances based on our understanding, until we learn the full story of what happened last week at Westminster and whether it will have any wider implications. Assessment is on-going. It is not done at a fixed point in time. The situation is constantly reviewed, refreshed and reconsidered when necessary, and the decision to deploy Tasers at the Parliament has been made by the chief constable based on that assessment and while the review is being conducted by Police Scotland, the security services and parliamentary authorities.

John Finnie

I also have a brief point about Taser deployment by the BTP. Before that happened, Chief Superintendent McBride engaged with the justice spokespeople of all the parties and my understanding was that the assessment was based on the threat that was posed to transport hubs. That is part of an intelligence process and it is unlikely that it would have taken place without consultation with, for instance, the security services and Police Scotland. Can you confirm that, although it was an operational decision for the BTP, there would have been liaison with Police Scotland and others?

Michael Matheson

I can confirm that there was liaison between Police Scotland and the BTP before that decision was made.

Mary Fee

My final question is for the transport minister. In evidence at a previous meeting, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said that it has

“not ruled out the option of taking industrial action to retain BTP officers on the railway, because we are concerned about the safety of railway staff and passengers on trains in Scotland.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 41.]

Other unions have indicated a similar stance. Are you prepared for further disruption on the railways and does that statement concern you in any way?

Humza Yousaf

I know Mick Hogg and the RMT well and, on the back of that statement, I will look to reach out to the RMT to hear its concerns and give its members as appropriate an assurance as I possibly can. As the cabinet secretary said in his opening remarks, safety is paramount for passengers and commuters and, of course, for the dedicated staff who work on our railways, whether they are drivers, conductors, station staff or others. The safety of all who are involved on the railway is our paramount concern. If the RMT is concerned about that, I will of course meet its representatives. I do so regularly anyway, but I will try to allay some of those fears. I will certainly reach out to the RMT on that.

The Convener

I have one final question that perhaps the transport minister and the cabinet secretary would like to answer. A number of references have been made to infrastructure policing and to air and sea travel. Do you accept that there is a distinction between the security that is possible, for example, for sea and air travel, where passengers are manifested—that is, it is known who is going to be on board—and there are pre-journey security checks, and the railway infrastructure, where someone can literally get on at one station and off at another, which makes the risks much higher?

11:45  



Humza Yousaf

The only point that I will make before I pass that on to the cabinet secretary is that Police Scotland has said that it recognises the specialism and the expertise that British Transport Police officers have and that it would not look to diminish that expertise in any way, shape or form.

You mentioned the unique nature of railway travel compared with other forms of travel. That is recognised, and therefore Police Scotland would want to maintain that specialism. ACC Higgins also made the point that it makes sense to have consistency and, as Police Scotland already has responsibility for roads, ports and airports, adding railway policing into the mix would provide a degree of consistency.

The cabinet secretary will probably want to add to that.

Michael Matheson

It is important to recognise that nobody is saying that railway policing is the same as airport or port policing. They all have different challenges and risks associated with them. They are all important parts of our infrastructure, as are our roads. That brings particular challenges with it.

One issue that was highlighted in the UK Government’s strategic defence and security review was how we could better police our infrastructure in the UK as a whole. One issue that the review looked at was having infrastructure policing that is delivered in a more effective way than it is now. I do not know what route the UK Government will decide to go down in England and Wales. Whether it chooses to go for infrastructure policing on a formal or informal basis is a matter for it. However, the review underlines the value that we get from having a single command structure for policing those infrastructure areas in a broader way than is possible when it is compartmentalised by having one command structure to deal with one element and another command structure to deal with another element.

The Convener

I think that you have covered that, cabinet secretary, in all fairness. There is the recognition that the challenges are so much more for railway policing because someone can literally get off at one station and on at another.

Michael Matheson

I do not agree that there are more challenges—I think that they are different.

The Convener

There are not the same checks as there are for air and sea travel. There are extra checks for air and sea travel that are not carried out on the railway.

Michael Matheson

By and large, the challenges are different; it is not that they are more.

The Convener

Thank you very much. That concludes a very detailed evidence session. I thank the minister, the cabinet secretary and the officials for attending.

We now move into private session. The next committee meeting will be on 18 April, when we will consider our draft stage 1 reports on the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill and the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

11:48 Meeting continued in private until 13:07.  



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7 March 2017

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14 March 2017

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21 March 2017

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28 March 2017

Committee Findings

Justice Committee Stage 1 report 

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation is sometimes called 'subordinate' or 'delegated' legislation. It can be used to:

  • bring a section or sections of a law that’s already been passed, into force
  • give details of how a law will be applied
  • make changes to the law without a new Act having to be passed

An Act is a Bill that’s been approved by Parliament and given Royal Assent (formally approved).

Delegated Powers and Law Reform committee

This committee looks at the powers of this Bill to allow the Scottish Government or others to create 'secondary legislation' or regulations.

It met to discuss the Bill in public on:

17 January 2017:

20 June 2017:

Read the Stage 1 report by the Delegated Powers and Law Reform committee published on 22 February 2017.

Debate on the Bill

A debate for MSPs to discuss what the Bill aims to do and how it'll do it.

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Stage 1 debate on the Bill transcript

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-05423, in the name of Humza Yousaf, on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill at stage 1.

Because we ran over time on questions on both statements, there is no time to spare in the debate. Therefore, I ask members for discipline, please.

15:31  



The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to open today’s debate on the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. The bill follows the transfer of legislative competence over railway policing to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act 2016.

Members will be aware that the Scottish Government’s input to the Smith commission sought devolution of railway policing in order to bring the British Transport Police’s staff and powers within Police Scotland’s remit. The Smith commission’s recommendation, which was reached through cross-party agreement, was that the functions of the BTP in Scotland should be a devolved matter. The Scottish Government’s aim of the bill is to use the newly devolved powers to establish a framework to ensure that railway policing in Scotland is accountable, through the chief constable of Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, to the people of Scotland.

I am grateful to Justice Committee members for their detailed scrutiny of the bill and the wider programme of work, and for the constructive recommendations in their report. The quality and extent of the committee’s scrutiny help to demonstrate the clear merits of devolving powers over railway policing to the Scottish Parliament.

The bill forms part of a wider on-going programme of work to integrate the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland. That work is overseen by a joint programme board, through which the Scottish Government is working closely with the United Kingdom Government, the SPA, the British Transport Police Authority, Police Scotland and the BTP.

Scotland’s railways are a vital component of our national infrastructure and the BTP provides a specialist railway policing function that is highly valued by the Scottish Government, the rail industry, railway staff and passengers. We will maintain its skill set on our railways post integration. In taking forward the proposals, our primary objective will be, of course, to maintain and enhance the high standards of safety and security that railway users and staff in Scotland experience at present.

Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

If the service is so highly valued, why was only one option consulted on?

Humza Yousaf

I will make a couple of points on that. One is that this is a long-held ambition of the Scottish Government: the previous Cabinet Secretary for Justice made the case for BTP integration. The other is—and I make this point gently to Elaine Smith—that neither she nor her party provided options for alternative models.

If I can, I will make some more progress.

Before I move on to key points in the Justice Committee’s report, I thank all those who contributed to the committee’s evidence sessions. I welcome the Justice Committee’s support for the general principles of the bill and its conclusion that the integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland will provide a more integrated and effective approach to infrastructure policing in Scotland.

During the evidence sessions, the committee heard some concerns about what might happen following integration. It also heard from a number of our key partners about how those concerns are being addressed. The committee is, rightly, very interested in ensuring that the overall work programme delivers the seamless transition that is expected of it, and it recommended that six-monthly reports on the joint programme board’s progress be provided to this Parliament. We accept that recommendation and will ensure that the Scottish Government provides those reports on behalf of the board. As many of the committee’s recommendations concern delivery of the overall programme, the progress reports will give members the opportunity to consider evidence of how the recommendations are being acted on, illustrating that, right from the outset, we are fully committed to ensuring that railway policing in Scotland is accountable to the Scottish Parliament and, through it, to the people of Scotland.

Our proposals will deliver an integrated approach to transport infrastructure policing in Scotland, bringing railway policing alongside the policing of roads, seaports, airports and border policing. Integration will enhance railway policing in Scotland through direct access to Police Scotland’s specialist resources, in line with our primary objective of maintaining and enhancing the safety and the security of railway passengers and staff.

Let me be clear about our commitment to maintaining the specialist expertise that railway policing involves and requires. In the committee’s evidence sessions, Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins confirmed that Police Scotland’s intention is to maintain a specialist railway policing function in the broader Police Scotland structure. He gave an absolute assurance that Police Scotland would respect the right of any member of the BTP who transfers to police the railway environment until they retire. I make it abundantly clear to all members in the chamber that any BTP officer in Scotland who wants to remain policing our railways post integration will continue to be able to do so. ACC Higgins also responded to concerns that railway police officers could be diverted to duties outwith the railway with a clear assurance that that simply would not occur, with the obvious exception of in a crisis.

Another benefit would be to make railway policing in Scotland more accountable. Crucial to that is the relationship between policing and the railway industry. As both the funder and the recipient of railway policing services, the railway industry’s interests are, of course, central. I fully agree with the committee’s conclusions that railway operators should be involved in setting railway policing priorities and objectives in collaboration with the SPA and Police Scotland. It is heartening to hear from most of the railway operators that their engagement with the Government, the SPA and Police Scotland has been constructive.

The bill will establish a formal mechanism for just that—to have that engagement—in the form of a railway policing management forum. It will place the forum on a statutory footing, going beyond arrangements under the existing United Kingdom legislation. The forum’s role will be to agree on the service, performance and costs of railway policing in Scotland.

Following a recent meeting between the railway industry, the SPA and Police Scotland, there was support for operating a shadow forum during the process of detailed implementation planning, to complement and contribute to the work of the joint programme board. I will write inviting it to begin that work should the bill complete its passage through Parliament.

The committee’s report makes several recommendations on cross-border railway policing following the integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland. About 91 per cent of rail travel—freight and passenger—in Scotland is within Scotland, but about 8 million passenger journeys a year use the cross-border routes and, clearly, it is crucial that policing on those routes remains seamless.

On 6 December 2016, I wrote to the UK transport minister, seeking his co-operation in ensuring seamless cross-border policing following integration, and I received a positive, constructive response.

As the committee heard from the UK Government Department for Transport, effective cross-border policing is a guiding principle of the joint programme board’s work and is in the shared interest of all parties. BTP Chief Constable Crowther and ACC Higgins of Police Scotland confirmed to the committee that they are fully engaged in discussions and will undertake careful scrutiny of the secondary legislation on cross-border jurisdiction in the UK Parliament.

Joint programme board partners are developing operational arrangements for cross-border services and co-operation to ensure that high standards of safety and security are maintained. Police Scotland recently hosted a workshop involving the BTP and Scottish and UK Government officials, with a further event planned in late June.

A particularly important recommendation in the committee’s report seeks an assurance that the terms, conditions, benefits and pensions of BTP officers and staff will not be adversely affected on transfer to Police Scotland. I am happy to give that assurance to Parliament today. The Scottish Government has listened closely to the issues raised by the BTP Federation and Transport Salaried Staffs Association, the staff union, and has offered a triple-lock guarantee that secures jobs, pay and pensions through the course of integration.

In the evidence sessions, John Finnie drew attention to areas where some of the wording could leave room for doubt. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be clear about our commitment. It is true that, over the period ahead, there is a great deal of work to be done on the detail of the terms and conditions, but I make it clear here and now that either the terms and conditions and pay and pensions of officers and staff who transfer will be the same as they are currently or an equivalent level of benefit will be provided, to ensure transfer on a no-detriment basis.

Passage of the bill will enable the steps to deliver that commitment to proceed, including secondary legislation in the United Kingdom Parliament. Officer and staff representatives will be fully engaged to ensure that we get the right approach for their members.

Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

On engagement with staff organisations and trade unions, the minister will be aware of a great deal of opposition from the TSSA, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and the Scottish Trades Union Congress. Indeed, the RMT told the committee:

“We have not ruled out the option of taking industrial action to retain BTP officers on the railway”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 41.]

Is the transport minister happy to proceed with a bill that he has been told might result in industrial action on our railways and severe disruption to passengers?

Humza Yousaf

The first point to make is that engagement with the unions has been constructive. Clearly, there is disagreement, as the member said. I have given—and will continue to give—many reassurances on the triple lock on jobs, pay and pensions. We will continue to have constructive conversation and we will continue to offer reassurance where we can, to remove any doubt that might exist about the language that we use.

If we think—as we on the Government benches do, and our view is shared by some political parties here—that the bill proposes a sensible approach to railway policing post devolution of BTP, we should not be beholden to the threat of industrial action. We want to work with the unions to avoid industrial action on any issue to do with our railway, so I will continue to have constructive dialogue. We have given a triple-lock guarantee: on the number of officers; on pay; and on pensions.

On progress to date on terms and conditions, I can tell members that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has met the TSSA and the BTPF. Officials met the BTPF as recently as 26 April, and my Transport Scotland officials and I have met the TSSA, the RMT and ASLEF to discuss a number of transport issues, including BTP integration.

Alongside those meetings, substantial data gathering has taken place on the range of existing terms and conditions as part of the work of the joint programme board. The data will be used to develop proposals for secondary legislation to give effect to the transfer on a no-detriment basis, as I said. I will continue to engage with the unions on the issues that they have raised.

On pensions, discussions are under way with the British Transport Police Authority on how we can deliver our commitment to no-detriment pension provision. Our starting point is that officers and staff should retain access to their current pension schemes; and officials are working on the financial and legal issues that are associated with delivering that.

I repeat my thanks to the Justice Committee for its support for the principles of the bill and for its helpful recommendations. I have sent the convener a written response, in which I addressed the detail of the recommendations. I look forward to hearing members’ speeches and to continuing to work in a constructive and, I hope, collaborative manner.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

15:43  



Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the stage 1 debate on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill on behalf of the Justice Committee, and I thank everyone who took the time to provide evidence to the committee. I also thank the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee for its report, which we endorsed, and I thank the Justice Committee clerks for their hard work and my colleagues on the committee for their work in scrutinising the bill and producing our report.

The devolution of railway policing to the Scottish Parliament was agreed by all parties that were represented on the Smith commission, but the model for that devolution was not agreed. The British Transport Police Authority proposed a number of options for devolved railway policing in Scotland. Some respondents raised concerns about the Scottish Government’s decision to consult on only one of those options—full integration—and the majority of respondents to the Scottish Government’s consultation and the Justice Committee’s call for evidence opposed integrating the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland.

The committee did not come to a unanimous view on the bill. A majority of members supported its general principles on the basis that the integration of the British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland would provide a more integrated and effective approach to infrastructure policing in Scotland. A minority of members, including me, did not support the general principles of the bill but, instead, supported an alternative approach to devolved railway policing. The committee considers that, if the general principles of the bill are agreed to today, a number of issues will need to be addressed. In the limited time that I have, I can cover only some of the key issues.

The first issue is the need to retain BTP officers and staff who have the specialist skills, knowledge and experience that are necessary to ensure that there is no reduction in the standard of the railway policing that is provided. Should integration proceed, Police Scotland intends to maintain a specialist railway policing function within its broader structure. The policy memorandum states that the approach will

“retain the specialist skills, knowledge and experience that BTP officers and staff have built”.

However, the retention of BTP officers and staff will be largely dependent on whether their current terms, conditions, pension rights and benefits are guaranteed. Despite Scottish Government assurances, those who represent BTP officers and staff have not been assured of that, and the matter clearly needs to be resolved urgently. The committee therefore asked the Scottish Government to provide an update on progress during the debate and an assurance that the terms, benefits and pensions of BTP officers and staff will not be adversely affected should integration proceed. I thank the minister for his update but remain extremely concerned that the matter is still unresolved.

Section 3 provides Police Scotland constables with a new power of entry in relation to specified railway property. BTP officers receive personal track safety certificate training, which enables them to police all areas of the railway, and the committee heard that every Police Scotland officer who is to police the railways will be required to have the personal track safety certificate. Police Scotland told the committee that it intends to provide railway policing training for all police officers, but it was not able to confirm the position regarding personal track safety certificates as it is undertaking training needs analysis. Therefore, the issue of whether the officers are to have personal track safety certificates remains a “significant concern” raised by railway operators.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

I am sorry, but some members of the committee do not recall receiving the evidence or information that all officers would require personal track safety certificates.

Margaret Mitchell

I refer Rona Mackay to the committee’s report—in particular, to the evidence that the training would have to be equivalent to that certificate. As I have just explained, the operators have said that the issue has not been resolved to date. I am happy to refer the member to the stage 1 report.

The committee has asked Police Scotland to provide details of its training needs analysis and the costs prior to stage 2. If there are to be additional training costs, the committee considers that railway operators should not be asked to pay them. The Scottish Government has been asked to provide clarity on that point.

Other potential costs that are not identified in the financial memorandum include the set-up costs of integration, Police Scotland’s additional payments for staff hours and salaries and its investment in information and communications technology to ensure compatibility. Clarification of those costs and confirmation of who is to pay is required.

A number of potential risks of integration associated with policing cross-border trains between Scotland and England were raised. It is imperative that police officers from both police forces are clear about their respective roles and legislative responsibilities and that jurisdictional arrangements are agreed prior to integration. The committee heard that Police Scotland and the British Transport Police might use different command and control systems to deal with incidents and might apply different policies—for example, on the use of Tasers or firearms. Maintaining the safety and security of those who travel by train is paramount, so protocols and procedures must be agreed prior to integration.

Although the Justice Committee did not unanimously agree to the general principles of the bill, it agreed that a number of issues must be resolved in the event that integration proceeds. Crucially, the current high level of public confidence in rail travel must be maintained. I invite the cabinet secretary to respond to the issues that are raised in the committee’s report when he sums up the debate.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Douglas Ross. You have up to six minutes, Mr Ross.

15:51  



Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. As you might know, I lodged an amendment to the minister’s motion, which would have given the Parliament a clear choice at decision time about whether to support the Scottish National Party’s plans to break up the British Transport Police or to support the Scottish Conservatives’ proposal to enable the BTP to continue in Scotland and across the UK, but with improved scrutiny and accountability to this Parliament. Although the Presiding Officer did not accept my amendment, he is aware that I will return to the matter at decision time.

I echo Margaret Mitchell’s thanks to the many stakeholders who responded to the Justice Committee’s call for evidence on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. Their expertise, feedback and advice have been invaluable, and it is on the basis of their insights that I make my remarks.

I would also like to pay tribute to the British Transport Police officers in Scotland who operate in D division. The prospect of professional change and upheaval is never an easy one, especially when it has been so protracted. Those men and women serve Scotland with distinction, and I hope that my comments will adequately convey their concerns about the proposed merger with Police Scotland.

I make it clear that Scottish Conservatives support the Smith commission’s recommendation that the functions of the British Transport Police be devolved to Scotland but, unlike SNP members, we recognise that there is more than one way to achieve that outcome. For years, the SNP has single-mindedly focused on the integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland, to the extent that it did not even bother to include alternative approaches in the consultation that was launched last summer. Given that the British Transport Police Authority had already done the legwork on the available options a year before the consultation went live, that omission seems the height of legislative laziness.

The BTPA’s paper sets out three approaches for the devolution of the BTP north of the border, including the break-up of the BTP and the absorption of its Scottish operations into Police Scotland. However, in the BTPA’s experienced and professional opinion, that option could result in confusion over who would record and investigate crimes, it could risk compromising the joined-up method of policing our railways and it could jeopardise cross-border efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, all of which are serious issues with serious implications.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that those concerns were worthy of wider consultation by the Scottish Government. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the Minister for Transport and the Islands might not have thought so, but others certainly did. They included the train operator CrossCountry, which described as “unsatisfactory” the consultation approach of

“not asking ‘should we do this’ but ‘how shall we do this’”,

and the Rail Delivery Group, which pointed out that integration was the only option on the table and said that it was being done

“because it can be done as opposed to there being a well set out argument as to why it should be done”.

That pretty much hits the nail on the head, because the vast majority of the evidence that the Justice Committee heard provides no compelling argument in favour of full integration. In fact, the opposite is the case—the Scottish Government is trying to tear up a specialist railway police service for no good reason at all. That has been confirmed by a senior BTP officer, Deputy Chief Constable Hanstock, who said that he had not been able to identify

“any operational or economic benefits”

of integration.

Instead, we are faced with a model that will, according to witnesses, increase delays for passengers and jeopardise their safety, result in an irrecoverable loss of expertise and dilute the unrivalled specialism of existing railway policing in Scotland. Why are we faced with such a model? The reason is to do with political ideology, the SNP’s single-mindedness and its obsession with cutting ties with anything that includes the word “British”. That is its modus operandi. It goes full steam ahead and deals with the consequences later. However, this time, even some SNP supporters have concerns about the proposed integration. One of them said that the integration

“of BTP Scotland into Police Scotland by the SNP, a party I have supported for a good number of years, is undoubtedly one of the most petty and ill-informed political moves I have witnessed.”

That is from an SNP member.

Integration is ill-informed, because Police Scotland is still going through a period of reform and transformation that is projected to continue until at least 2026. It is a force that has faced crisis after crisis since its creation in 2013, from problems with call handling to the cancellation of the i6 project. It is a force that, by Police Scotland’s own admission, has an “elephant-sized deficit” that it is

“going to eat ... one bite at a time.”

It is a force that is trying to get its own house in order but, under the proposals, it will have to deal with a greater volume of arrests and emergency calls each day. Why is the Scottish Government steaming ahead with proposals to fix railway policing when it is not broken?

Why is the Scottish Government getting support from other parties in this Parliament? The Greens and the Liberal Democrats supported the bill at committee stage and the committee report was agreed by a majority of SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green members. However, that report still highlights concerns about training, the costs of training and the wider transition costs.

The Scottish Conservatives support the devolution of the functions of the British Transport Police, but we cannot support the Scottish Government’s proposals to deliver that recommendation in their current form. I urge the Scottish Government in the strongest possible terms to reconsider the proposals. It is not too late for Government ministers to change their minds. To forge ahead regardless, ignoring the advice of so many experts and professionals, would be the wrong thing to do.

15:56  



Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I extend my thanks to Justice Committee members for the informative evidence sessions on the bill that they have held. As a substitute member, I took part in the session with the railway operators. Those evidence sessions highlighted the number of concerns about the bill that have helped Scottish Labour to reach its position: we will not support the general principles of the bill.

Although the majority of the committee recommended that the general principles should be supported, there is a division among members. During the course of the afternoon, I hope that the Government will listen to their concerns, agree to withdraw the bill and work with all interested parties and bodies in looking at the full range of options that are available for the future of railway policing in Scotland.

Scottish Labour is not against changes to policing in Scotland, but it is clear from the policing 2026 strategy that Police Scotland and the SPA have much to change in order to secure wider public confidence and to move on from the difficulties that have hindered them since their formation, and it is right to question whether now is the right time to attempt the complex integration of the transport police into the force. Parliament, relevant bodies and the public must be fully confident that any new changes are warranted, supported and proportionate. Today, MSPs have received correspondence from the RMT and the STUC opposing the bill and continuing to raise significant concerns about the erosion of specialised skills and expertise, and risk to safety and security.

It has been argued that we are here today as a result of the Smith commission. However, it is worth remembering what the commission agreed, which was:

“The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter.”

There was no agreement on a specific model.

Earlier in this parliamentary session, in response to my colleague Richard Leonard, the transport minister, in attempting to justify the bill, said that the Government was

“elected on a manifesto promise to do what we are doing with BTP integration ... That is the rationale behind what we are doing.”—[Official Report, 9 November 2016; c 2.]

However, as was subsequently shown, there was no mention of such a model in the SNP manifesto. Today’s bill has never been put to the public via an election, so there is no electoral mandate for imposing this model.

When the bill was introduced to public scrutiny through the Government consultation, it was widely criticised and rejected, which might be the reason why the bill was published five days before the analysis of the consultation responses.

All three trade unions that have members who work in the railway sector oppose the bill, and staff, officers and rail operators all continue to raise serious concerns. Those concerns include the impact on cross-border services; the potential reduction in the effectiveness of tackling major UK-wide issues, such as terrorism; a reduction in the number of jobs and a loss of expertise; increased costs for rail operators; the impact on the terms and conditions of service for BTP officers and staff; and integration into a service that is already under huge financial pressure and that is still dealing with the impact of moving to a single police force.

As highlighted in the Justice Committee’s stage 1 report, there is concern that the costs of railway policing are likely to increase as a result of integration, although it is still unclear what those costs might be or who should pay them. It is difficult to proceed with a bill that lacks clarity in its financial memorandum. The British Transport Police model works for us in Scotland and I highlight the great work that is undertaken here by D division. Covering thousands of kilometres of track and hundreds of stations, the officers and staff deserve our commendation for the work that they do to ensure that our railways run safely and smoothly. However, rather than look at the models that would keep and reward such dedicated hard work, the Government has introduced a bill to fix something that does not need to be repaired. I am not convinced by the argument that integration would provide greater resources and flexibility, and believe that we should pay attention to fears of reduced specialism and expertise.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Will the member give way?

Claire Baker

I only have six minutes and there are a couple of points that I would like to make.

The bill has been rushed. There is more than one option for the future of the British Transport Police that would meet the Smith commission objectives, but those options have not been given the scrutiny or consultation that they deserve. The option that has been chosen is the most expensive, has the highest level of risk and is the most complex way to achieve the Smith commission objectives.

There is the option, via the non-statutory devolved model, of governance and accountability through administrative rather than legislative means. There is also an option for a statutory devolved model. Those are two options that were not given consideration in the public consultation. We believe that all options should be properly explored; instead, the Government is attempting to railroad legislation through Parliament.

The rush to integrate D division within Police Scotland, with overview from the SPA—an organisation that itself faces significant financial and governance issues—introduces a risk to transport policing that is not in the best interests of passengers. The bill has no manifesto mandate, no public support and very little industry support. It is a bill with operational concerns and serious financial uncertainties and unknowns. Therefore, it is a bill that Scottish Labour cannot support and I urge the Government to reconsider its approach to the bill so far.

16:02  



Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill is extremely important legislation that will strengthen and complement the work of Police Scotland. Today, the bill will be presented by some members, including a minority of members of the Justice Committee, in a negative light—unnecessarily so. The majority of committee members support the bill. I will focus on three main elements of the bill that I believe are fundamental and should be viewed positively. They are public safety, ethos and security.

During evidence taking, the committee heard from a variety of stakeholders, including railway operators, British Transport Police, Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, trade unions and affiliated police organisations. There was a divergence of opinion in many areas, which is no bad thing. Integration must be successful and must achieve public confidence, and no stone should be left unturned regarding the detail of implementation.

Douglas Ross

The member suggested that some members would express an overly negative view about the proposals. Will she confirm that the majority of respondents to the Scottish Government’s consultation and indeed to the committee’s call for evidence were against the proposals? They do not want the bill to go forward.

Rona Mackay

I will not have the member put words in my mouth. I am talking about members. If the member lets me proceed, I will explain.

Proposals to integrate the BTP into the Scottish police service began in 2011, before the creation of Police Scotland. The Smith commission agreed that the functions of the BTP in Scotland should be devolved. The BTP is not accountable in Scotland. It is a UK force that is accountable to the British Transport Police Authority, the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State for Transport in England and Wales. Integrating the BTP with Police Scotland will make it fully accountable to the people of Scotland—entirely as it should be. With more than 93 million rail journeys made in Scotland each year and another 8 million cross-border rail journeys, it make sense for the BTP to be integrated to ensure full accountability to the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament.

There was concern among stakeholders and some members of the committee about the upskilling of existing police staff and whether the training would be adequate. However, should the bill proceed, after 2019 every police officer would be trained in policing the railways. They would get exactly the same three-week training that is currently received only by BTP officers. There are currently 285 full-time-equivalent BTP officers in Scotland and more than 17,000 regular police officers. In my view, integration can therefore only improve the service to the rail network in Scotland and, of course, contribute to the safety of the general public. How can that be a bad thing? Rural areas that are currently not served by the BTP will benefit by having specially trained officers on hand to deal with incidents.

Everyone agrees that the BTP has consistently done a superbly professional job in keeping the rail-travelling public safe. To recognise and keep that specialism, Police Scotland has confirmed to the Scottish Parliament that a bespoke railway policing unit will be established for railway policing in Scotland. That would sit alongside the specialist road policing unit that is already in place, and those officers would receive additional training over and above the training that all officers receive, so the ethos and specialism would be enhanced, not diminished.

The committee heard that there was concern that the cost of railway policing would increase as a result of integration. We have requested that, should that happen, the Scottish Government report to Parliament to clarify who would pay the additional costs.

There was also concern about the transfer of BTP staff—and their pay and conditions—into the integrated service, as the minister outlined. I hope that members are reassured by the minister’s commitment to the no-detriment and triple-lock assurances that have been given to them—although perhaps the Tories need to be reminded of what a “triple lock” means. The minister gave the Transport Salaried Staffs Association the same triple-lock guarantee. The Scottish Government will apply the principle of no detriment across the board to the terms and conditions of BTP officers, and I welcome that, as I understand the concern in that area.

Throughout the negotiations involving the joint programme board—the timescale of which Assistant Chief Constable Higgins described as “a luxury”—the engagement between the Scottish Government and the railway industry has been praised by both sides. Graham Meiklejohn of TransPennine Express said:

“The minister has been generous ... in giving us time to consider the issues”

and that

“There is an opportunity for improved efficiency.”

David Lister of ScotRail Alliance talked about the

“opportunities for enhancing security at larger stations outwith the central belt”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 21 March 2017; c 5, 26, 27.]

as specially trained staff from Police Scotland could respond to incidents more quickly.

The cross-border policing that already takes place between Scotland and the rest of the UK will be enhanced. Currently, Police Scotland’s intelligence cells in the Gartcosh crime campus have access to real-time information that has to be relayed to the BTP. With integration, there will be no need to do that, as the information would be put directly to the point at which it was required.

In conclusion, I thank committee member John Finnie for injecting a bit of reality into some of our discussions during the committee’s evidence-taking process by highlighting his experience as a former police officer. It was very useful to have the benefit of his experience.

The integration of railway policing into Police Scotland’s remit is simply common sense. It will make the service accountable to the people of Scotland, enhance the excellent specialist provision and increase security. I therefore have no hesitation in recommending to members the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

16:08  



Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

The SNP continues to claim that the changes must be made, that there are no other viable options, and that everything was agreed at the Smith commission. As ever with the Scottish Government, that is only what it wants us to hear. Indeed, it is all framed as some kind of commonsense proposal and operational necessity, but the Government gave the game away when it decided to consult on only a single option.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

Can Oliver Mundell tell members what his party put forward as an alternative?

Oliver Mundell

We are putting forward our proposals in the chamber now. We would like the integration to be scrutinised here in the Scottish Parliament. We see absolutely no reason to tear up an organisation that is working successfully and merge it with Police Scotland, especially at a time when Police Scotland’s finances are unstable. The harsh reality is that this is just another ill-thought-out power grab—

Humza Yousaf

Will the member take an intervention?

Oliver Mundell

If Humza Yousaf listened, he might hear what I have to say.

It is another ill-thought-out power grab that is driven not by logic but by an ideological and constitutional obsession with control. It is change for change’s sake. Indeed, the cabinet secretary himself, when he appeared before the Justice Committee, stated:

“By and large, the British Transport Police provide a good service in Scotland and across the whole UK.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 28 March 2017; c 12.]

I am afraid that I am not in the least bit convinced by the arguments that have been made that if only the Scottish Government, with its great track record on policing, were in full control, the situation with the BTP would somehow be even better. Instead, I am of the view—[Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

I ask members not to chat across the chamber; I want to hear what Mr Mundell is saying. Please continue, Mr Mundell.

Oliver Mundell

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

I am of the view that the merger will prove to be a repeat of the botched and unpopular Police Scotland integration.

As ever, the Scottish Government has full confidence in itself, but I am not so sure that current BTP officers share that optimism. The BTPF has already highlighted concerns about the plan, arguing that

“the current climate of policing within Scotland does not lend itself ... to integrating the BTP”.

As my colleague Douglas Ross highlighted, Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock from the BTP said that the organisation had not been able to identify

“any operational or economic benefits”

of the merger. How come those who deal with these issues day in, day out and have years of expertise are wrong, while those who have overseen the disastrous and lengthy transformation of Police Scotland know better?

There are limited benefits, but there are certainly risks. There is a real risk that the merger will result in a loss of specialist and institutional knowledge.

Rona Mackay

Does the member agree that having 17,000 officers who are skilled in railway policing is better, and offers more security, than having 285 officers?

Oliver Mundell

I am pleased to hear Rona Mackay confirm that all 17,000 police officers across Scotland will be working full time on the railways rather than on all the other issues that they are being stretched to deal with at present. Police stations in my constituency will no longer be closing, and suddenly everything will be wonderful and great. We will get our call centre back in Dumfries, and we will suddenly have 17,000 new police officers just to police the railway. To be honest, I find that argument ludicrous.

There will be big costs involved. BTPF officers have said that they can “guarantee” that expertise will be “diluted”, and that a number of officers would rather leave the force than come to work for Police Scotland, and many of them would choose to retire.

I remain convinced that the Government is trying to rush the merger and is putting at risk the integrity of the BTP. I am also worried about the supposed benefits of a single command-and-control system. The arguments for that sound good until one realises that there will in fact not be such a system in place. Police Scotland will have to continue to work closely with the BTP, particularly on cross-border services, because we have one railway network across the UK.

As we have seen from a number of incidents, events that happen even away from the west coast main line can affect services as far away as London, Birmingham and elsewhere across the UK. Instead of the BTP managing the process seamlessly across the UK, incidents will have to be reported by Police Scotland to the BTP and vice versa, because there are two different command-and-control systems.

That will be the case especially in my Dumfriesshire constituency, where a significant number of cross-border services run between Carlisle and Lockerbie. It is very important that we know how these things will operate in practice, preferably before the bill proceeds through Parliament. My constituents and local officers need to know what the operational intentions are, instead of them being hidden behind some idea that we can find out about the nitty-gritty detail of that section of the line after the horse has bolted.

I am afraid that the Scottish Government does not seem to have those most basic of answers. Indeed, when I asked the cabinet secretary whether he would, in principle, be open to the British Transport Police officers who are based in Carlisle continuing to police that section of the railway and operating within Scotland, he said:

“I would have no problem with that at all in principle.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 28 March 2017; c 30.]

If the bill is not about where officers are based, we are left with the argument that the only benefit is scrutiny and accountability.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Will you conclude, please?

Oliver Mundell

However, with a number of unpopular transformational changes still on-going in Police Scotland, including proposals to close police stations in my constituency, and a budget that seems to be out of control, people will wonder how accountable the Scottish Government will be on policing matters.

16:15  



Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. As a member of the Justice Committee, I pay tribute to the committee members for their scrutiny of the bill. Although there was not unanimous agreement on the general principles, I thank the convener, Margaret Mitchell, for the way in which she approached the matter, gaining much consensus across various areas.

I was not going to mention this, but I think that I will. I also give Margaret Mitchell credit for the way in which she dealt with members of her own party—well, I should be clear and say one member of her own party. Douglas Ross again today played the flag card shamefully in his speech and he does that more subtly and regularly in the committee. I have never met somebody in the chamber like Mr Ross, who would rather be somewhere else.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I caution the member about being too personal in his attacks. It is in the way you say it.

Fulton MacGregor

I was responding to something that was said during the debate.

It is worth remembering that the devolution of the BTP was agreed by all parties. I asked Oliver Mundell what his party had put into the Smith commission. It has also been Scottish Government policy for some time. It will come as no surprise to anyone in the chamber that I believe that our country, our Parliament and our services, such as Police Scotland, are more than capable of taking on the integration and running our own affairs like any other normal country. I therefore fully welcome the move.

Douglas Ross

I will try to be as pleasant as I can. You suggest that the Parliament and the country can take on the powers of scrutinising and ensuring the accountability of the BTP. Do you accept that that is exactly what the British Transport Police Authority proposed as one of its three potential models a year before your Government consulted on only one model, which was to totally disrupt the British Transport Police and merge it into Police Scotland?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I remind members not to use the word “you”. Please talk about “the member”.

Fulton MacGregor

I accept the proposals that are being put forward by the Government. That is what we should concentrate on. It is a shame that two of the parties in the chamber have not supported those proposals, but that is their right.

The integration will provide a more integrated and effective approach to infrastructure policing in Scotland and ensure that it is accountable to the people of Scotland. The bill seeks to enhance working practices and embed them into statute, and to ensure that the industry has a strong voice in the development of railways and what is important to them.

Integrating the BTP into Police Scotland is an opportunity to improve and enhance railway policing in Scotland. The committee heard a lot of evidence on that, including from Graham Meiklejohn of TransPennine Express, who said:

“There is an opportunity for things to improve in Scotland and for the force in England and Wales then to up its game and improve, as well.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 21 March 2017; c 21.]

There is an opportunity for improved efficiency.

As has been mentioned, legitimate concerns have been raised about training and I am glad that the committee scrutinised the issue so thoroughly. All police officers in Scotland will be trained in railway policing, increasing coverage across the whole of Scotland. ACC Higgins confirmed that, should the bill proceed, after 2019, every police officer in Scotland will be trained in policing the railways, improving the service that is provided to the railway network throughout Scotland. As my colleagues have said, officers currently complete an 11-week training course at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan, after which the BTP officers have an additional three weeks of training. Police Scotland has confirmed that, should integration proceed, all officers will receive that training.

As has also already been said—some of the facts are getting repeated—there are currently 285 full-time equivalent BTP officers in Scotland and more than 17,000 regular police officers, which means that the number of officers with railway policing training in Scotland will be significantly enhanced. Surely we can all welcome that across the chamber?

Elaine Smith

I thank the member for taking an intervention. Would all those officers then have personal track safety certificates?

Fulton MacGregor

I thank the member for her intervention. No—I do not believe that they will. However, to have 17,000 officers with the training is, to my mind, a significant enhancement, which is why the bill has been supported by most parties.

When giving evidence to the Justice Committee, Police Scotland made it clear that specialist railway policing expertise and capacity will be maintained and protected within the broader structure of Police Scotland.

It is worth mentioning that members received a briefing today from the Samaritans in Scotland regarding suicide prevention skills. A lot of suicides can happen on the railways and I would encourage the maintenance of those specialised skills if and when integration occurs. It is fitting that we talk about that today, given that it is mental health awareness week.

Cross-border policing, as some have mentioned, will continue to be seamless in both directions, as it is between the UK and mainland Europe and across the border in Ireland at the moment. I do not believe that there will be any difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK when integration occurs, so I do not think that that is a concern either.

There is no doubt that the British Transport Police does a fantastic job; that has never been in any doubt. This, however, is about us developing a service that delivers uniquely for Scotland and is accountable to this Parliament. In some places, that is already happening. Indeed, I spoke to a ScotRail train driver just the other day who told me that when he and his colleagues are working late shifts at night and there is trouble on the train or at the stations that they arrive at, contacting Police Scotland is their first response—not because there is anything wrong with the BTP, but because the infrastructure for Police Scotland is already there and a quick response can be guaranteed.

The committee has carried out good scrutiny of the bill. I am pleased that there has been cross-party support, including from the Greens and the Liberals. Police Scotland has said that the transfer will be seamless and I have every faith that it will be. I am happy to support the motion that was lodged by the minister.

16:23  



Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

There is no doubt that the Smith commission envisaged a much greater role for the Scottish Parliament in relation to railway policing. However, it would be profoundly wrong to suggest that the integration of the BTP into Police Scotland is somehow a requirement or a stipulation of the Smith agreement—it is not.

There is no reason why the devolution of the BTP in Scotland should mean the dissolution of the BTP in Scotland. It provides a good service to the travelling public. It is a highly effective organisation that has built up a specialism over many years. There is no reason for the Parliament to unpick that service, but it appears that the SNP has a problem with the BTP. Breaking up the BTP is a choice—a political choice; a nationalist choice—not a necessity.

In response to the Smith agreement, the British Transport Police Authority set out a range of options, including alternatives to integration, that would allow us to retain the BTP as a specialist police service but with enhanced accountability to the Parliament. It is telling that the SNP consulted on only one option—integration into Police Scotland. No wonder the British Transport Police Federation, the body that represents BTP officers in Scotland, believes that the bill is being driven by “political ideology”.

Neither in evidence to the Justice Committee nor in response to the Government’s own consultation is there majority support for the option that the Government has chosen.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee—the committee of the Parliament that is responsible for transport matters—did not take any evidence on the bill at all. It is little wonder, then, that people out there question whether the Parliament properly scrutinises legislation. Perhaps if the transport committee had taken evidence on the future of transport police, it would have found, just as the Scottish Government and the Justice Committee did, that there are huge areas of concern in the sector about the proposed changes.

There are concerns that the case for integration has not been made and that the SNP Government is committing to one course of action against a weight of evidence and industry opinion. As Douglas Ross said, the rail operator CrossCountry said that the SNP

“was not asking ‘should we do this’ but ‘how shall we do this’.”

The Rail Delivery Group has said that the approach is being taken

“because it can be done as opposed to there being a well set out argument as to why it should be done.”

John Mason

Is the member arguing for specialist police forces in all other sectors? For example, would he have a specialist police force for information technology or for forestry or other things?

Neil Bibby

I am arguing that we should listen to the rail operators, the trade unions and the police officers about the SNP Government’s proposal, which does not seem to have support among any of those organisations.

In addition to those concerns, we heard concerns from Nigel Goodband of the British Transport Police Federation, who said:

“there has been no acknowledgement of our views or those of the police officers whom we represent, because a simple decision has been taken that there is only one option—that of full integration.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 36-7.]

That is a damning indictment of the SNP Government’s position. Our dedicated police officers put their lives on the line to protect our safety and the SNP Government is completely ignoring their views. We should listen to them, because we know from our experience of Police Scotland the pitfalls and the dangers in pushing through sweeping changes to policing without consensus.

It is no surprise that the Greens are supporting the SNP on the issue, but it is astonishing to see the Liberal Democrats, such ardent opponents of the creation of a single police force, doing nothing to defend a proven positive approach to railway policing. It looks as if the Liberal Democrats are making themselves accessories to the dismantling of the British Transport Police in Scotland. There may be support for the merger in the chamber, but the SNP Government has simply been unable to demonstrate any public support, demand or consent for the policy.

Humza Yousaf

Will the member give way?

Neil Bibby

I will take an intervention if the minister wants to tell me who supports his policy.

Humza Yousaf

I have listened to the member for four and half minutes. What proposal is he putting forward and how much would it cost? By the way, did Labour members demand that the transport committee look at the bill, and if not, why not?

Neil Bibby

Labour members asked that committee to look at the issue. In fact, I wrote to the committee’s convener.

We are saying that we need to come up with a model that has support from the rail unions, the operators, the industry and police officers. The minister’s proposals do not have the support of any of those organisations.

As Claire Baker said, the SNP never gave a manifesto commitment to break up the British Transport Police. The minister will remember that he had to apologise to Parliament for suggesting that there was a manifesto mandate. Perhaps he should listen to the views of the railway workers who, unlike him, are transport experts. Every one of the trade unions and staff organisations representing rail workers is opposed to the merger.

Rona Mackay

Will the member take an intervention?

Neil Bibby

I have taken two already.

The STUC, which contacted us today, is united in opposition to the bill. In a motion passed at its congress this year, the STUC said:

“the Government’s determination flies in the face of serious misgivings expressed by trade unions, BTP officers and staff”

and

“railway workers”.

The RMT has warned that effectively abolishing the BTP in Scotland will result in “an inferior service”. In evidence to the Justice Committee, the RMT’s Mick Hogg said:

“We have not ruled out the option of taking industrial action to retain BTP officers on the railway, because we are concerned about the safety of railway staff and passengers on trains in Scotland.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 41.]

Rail workers are warning that the bill could lead to yet more industrial action on the railways. That would not be a strike over terms and conditions; it would be industrial action to protect the workforce and the travelling public. That is how central they believe the future of railway policing is to public safety.

The transport minister, Humza Yousaf, has been warned but appears happy to proceed with a bill that may result in industrial action and disruption for Scotland’s passengers. Passing the bill will have consequences, including for the transport minister, and he will be held responsible for them.

As Claire Baker said, the Government is trying to railroad the bill through Parliament. It is a bill that the workers do not want and passengers simply do not need. The Government cannot explain how it will make our railways any safer or specialist railway policing any better. There is no mandate for the bill, no rationale for the bill and no popular support for the bill, and Scottish Labour will vote against it today.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Could you give later speakers some guidance as to how much time they might expect to have?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The member should bear in mind that I am well aware of what the timings are. I am trying to allow a little bit of additional time for interventions because I do not want to kill debate, but I will give adequate warning to the summing-up speakers, as I usually do, if there is a slight curtailment of their time. I think that it is better to allow time for interventions across the chamber than to have no interventions at all. Thank you for your interest, Mr Stevenson.

16:31  



John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

It is fair to record that there are very strong views on this subject on all sides. I have two dear friends and neighbours who are greatly concerned about a force amalgamation, although the one that they are concerned about is the amalgamation of Inverness burgh police with Inverness county police—in 1968. I absolutely get that people are concerned about change; it is important that all members recognise that.

As a member of the RMT Scottish parliamentary group, it is very rare that I am not on the same side as the RMT. The position of the RMT, the TSSA and ASLEF reflects a genuine concern about safety that has to be addressed. The concern of British Transport Police officers is summed up in a word that we have heard often: “ethos”. Those individuals have chosen to serve the public by joining a certain sphere of policing. They did not choose to join Northern Constabulary or the force in Grampian, Cumbria, Northumbria or wherever; they chose to join the British Transport Police, and that has to be recognised, too. A proud history and a singular focus are attached to that.

The training for officers is the same across Scotland. British Transport Police officers then go on to get subsequent training, and of course Police Scotland officers get alternative training. The health and safety of police officers, railway staff and the public is the paramount consideration for me.

We know that Police Scotland will embrace the proposal if Parliament passes it. Assistant Chief Constable Higgins gave us a lot of information about the specialist training. I am a keen supporter of what I hear from Mr Higgins, who I think is very good and who made a very ambitious statement about the level of training. It is right that the Justice Committee’s report talks about a training needs analysis and the scrutiny that we will have to do of that. We then have the question of who pays, which will be addressed by railway policing agreements. The report mentions the requirement for the Scottish Police Authority to set up a formal mechanism and to have meaningful engagement.

Members have talked about the difficulties with the Police Service of Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. Those difficulties have absolutely existed, but we must move on and keep a single focus on service delivery to the public.

The railway policing agreements will pick up on various aspects, including the new powers of entry and the abolition of the British Transport Police Authority. We know that the rail operators will set priorities and objectives. That is absolutely right—their concerns about change are valid and have to be taken on board. However, we must remember that the arrangements will be different.

On the protection of the present quota of railway police staff, I take a great deal of comfort from the fact that there will be a commercial arrangement between the train operators and the Scottish Police Authority on behalf of Police Scotland. It is not the arrangement that I would want, because I want us to have a publicly owned railway, with the arrangements existing within the public sector. As things stand, however, there will be a commercial arrangement.

The ethos is one of efficiency, and we have heard in particular about the different approach that the British Transport Police takes to dealing with fatalities on the line, compared with Police Scotland’s approach. A particular example was given, which I will not repeat, where Police Scotland attended a scene and, overall, took longer to deal with it. However, that is precisely why the expertise will be retained. It was explained that, within a relatively short time, a delay on the lines in Scotland can result in trains backing up in the south-east of England.

I also think that there is an opportunity for Police Scotland to learn from the British Transport Police. Clearly, a balance has to be struck in relation to efficiency. We do not want scant investigations into fatalities just to get the trains running, and it is clear that the BTP has mastered the practical investigative skills needed to get things going. Why would that approach be altered? It would be in no one’s interests to do so. Indeed, I have heard no suggestions that it would be, and we know that Police Scotland wants to retain such specialist skills.

Given my background, I would not normally say how many police officers there are in an area, but the BTP chief constable told us that five officers are based in Inverness. People will know—they will be sick of hearing—that the Highlands is the size of Belgium. Adding Argyll and Moray to that gives us an enormous area to be covered by five police officers. I will not repeat all the statistics about officer numbers; it is simply a fact that, statistically—this has nothing to do with who does it best or where they come from—a requirement in the Highlands and Islands is likely to be attended by a Police Scotland officer.

Given the Christie commission’s principles of collaborative working, one of my concerns relates to some of the ill-informed comment on the terrorism threat level and the response to it. I assure the public that an entirely co-ordinated system applies at the moment, and that an entirely co-ordinated system would apply were the proposal before us to go ahead. People have concerns about different systems of working, but the systems of working that apply in the rest of Great Britain apply where there are 43 police forces, so clearly there are 44 systems. If the proposal goes ahead, there will be two systems in Scotland.

Elaine Smith

Will the member take an intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The member is in his last 30 seconds.

John Finnie

There are long-standing arrangements about cross-border policing.

I just want to touch on a key issue. I heard the minister give an assurance on ensuring that there will be no detriment. With the greatest respect, I say to him that it is not me he has to persuade; clearly, there remain others who require to be persuaded.

We know that there is joint working at the UK level. From the public’s perspective, the polis are the polis and the public do not make any distinctions. I will leave it there.

16:37  



Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

As other members have done, I thank all those who have contributed evidence to the Justice Committee. The committee has been helped by the willingness of stakeholders to share their views and insights, so any lack of clarity that remains around critical areas of the bill is not a result of any lack of candour on their part.

I also thank the Scottish Parliament information centre and our clerks for aiding us throughout the process. I thank, too, committee colleagues, who have ensured that the bill has been robustly tested. I think, from the tone of the debate so far, that that will continue. That is entirely right for any bill, but it is particularly right when the implications of the bill in question remain so unclear.

I will come shortly to questions that I feel remain to be answered, but I will first address the myth that has been repeatedly promoted by ministers, which is that the bill simply discharges the will of the Smith commission. That is disingenuous. The Smith commission did indeed state that the

“functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter”,

but subsuming the BTP within Police Scotland is only one option for delivering that outcome. I grant that that has long been the SNP’s preferred option, but it is just one of three options that were identified by the working group that was set up by the BTPA. As the Justice Committee heard in evidence at our round-table meeting, that option also happens to be the one that carries the highest degree of risk, and the one that was opposed by the majority of respondents both to the Government’s consultation and to the committee’s call for evidence.

An alternative would have been to give the Scottish Government statutory powers to direct the BTPA and ultimately to specify the direction of railways policing in Scotland, thereby ensuring that the chief constable of the BTP engaged with the Scottish Government and Parliament in much the same way as the chief constable of Police Scotland does. Responsibility for pensions, employment contracts and defraying the costs of policing to the rail industry would have remained with the BTPA, but the SPA would have had greater involvement at strategic and planning levels.

A third option that was identified by the BTPA would have achieved devolution through administrative means by considering practical ways to increase the BTP’s accountability to Scottish institutions and to be better aligned with Police Scotland.

Sadly, no attempt was made by ministers to seek views on either of those options, which would have minimised disruption to a service that we heard in committee time and again is operating smoothly, efficiently and in a highly professional manner across the UK.

Ultimately, that failure to consider and consult on those other options has weakened ministers’ case for their preferred approach. As for that approach, although I believe that the bill should be allowed to proceed to the next stage, ministers have their work cut out to address the serious concerns ahead of stage 3. The concerns are about how the specialist expertise of the BTP can be maintained and developed post-merger, and about how RPAs are likely to operate, how costs will be assigned and how potential disputes will be resolved. There are also concerns about Police Scotland’s ability to take on the additional functions and responsibilities while it still faces serious on-going challenges as a result of the botched centralisation that was driven through by the Government in the previous parliamentary session—all the time egged along by Douglas Ross’s and, indeed, by Neil Bibby’s colleagues.

Retention of expertise, which is absolutely vital to the safety of passengers and workers on Scotland’s railways, will, of course, require that agreement be reached on post-transfer terms and conditions. The minister and Police Scotland were bullish about that issue in evidence and again this afternoon, but the unions appear to be less convinced. Those who are currently employed by Police Scotland—who are facing difficult times ahead, based on the evidence of the policing 2026 strategy—will be watching closely to see how the negotiations develop. The more that is conceded to the BTP, the more difficult it might be to persuade people in Police Scotland that they are being treated fairly.

Police in Police Scotland will also now be expected to undergo two weeks of training in railway policing, according to Assistant Chief Constable Higgins. The costs of delivering such a force-wide training package are still unclear. It seems inconceivable, however, that the training will be enough for Police Scotland officers to gain the certificates that are necessary for them to access safely all parts of the railway environment.

Meantime, concerns were expressed that whatever the costs of the force-wide training turn out to be, they will inevitably find their way into the railway policing agreements—especially given the financial straits in which Police Scotland finds itself. Indeed, the committee expressed its

“disappointment at a lack of detail on costs set out in the Financial Memorandum”.

Far more clarity is needed about what the costs of integration are likely to be and how they will be met. That is all the more important given that concerns have also been raised about dispute resolution for RPAs—a point that was picked up by the Law Society of Scotland in its briefing for the debate.

Finally, let me address the issue of timing. Even were full integration of the BTP within Police Scotland felt to be the most sensible and logical route to take—most witnesses did not feel that—it can scarcely be claimed by anyone other than its most ardent supporters that this is an ideal time to be contemplating such a move.

With chronic levels of structural debt, a failed information technology project that has left efficiency targets tough—if not impossible—to achieve, and morale that could certainly be better, surely only Police Scotland’s worst enemy could see this as an opportune moment to be foisting a further merger upon the organisation. The Auditor General for Scotland recently highlighted continuing concerns around financial management: promised savings from centralisation have simply not materialised. Against that backdrop, the timing of the Government’s bill looks highly questionable.

Presiding Officer, as I said in committee, I remain open to being persuaded that the concerns that I have set out—and others—can be addressed. If they are not, Scottish Liberal Democrats will be unable to support the passage of the bill at stage 3.

16:43  



Mairi Evans (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

Throughout the evidence that was heard by the Justice Committee on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, one thing that was made clear by all those who gave evidence—written and oral—was the professionalism of the British Transport Police. There was nothing but praise for the job that the BTP does in keeping our railways and the passengers who use them safe. I start by commending the BTP for that work, because it is important to remember that the proposed integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland is not about fixing a broken system—as has been suggested around the chamber today—but about making railway policing work better for all of Scotland, making it accountable to the people of Scotland and looking to the opportunities to build on the current system of railway policing across the country, based on the recommendations of the Smith commission.

Based on the evidence that the committee received, I believe that there are advantages to be achieved and opportunities to improve, should the integration process proceed. The first advantage is in terms of location, the geographical spread of officers and the resulting opportunities to enhance the police service across the whole rail network in Scotland. Currently, the BTP maintains a focus on the central belt and positions most of its officers there, while leaving many stations in the rest of Scotland, including three in my constituency, unstaffed. We received supplementary written evidence from Chief Constable Paul Crowther of the BTP that said that currently there are 262 BTP officers in Scotland, who are based predominantly in the central belt. Outwith that area, on average there are about six officers at some of the bigger stations, compared with 54 here in Edinburgh and upwards of 20 at each of the stations in Glasgow.

As it stands, if an incident occurs at one of the unmanned stations, such as those in my constituency and elsewhere in rural Scotland, Police Scotland officers, rather than the BTP, are more often than not the first to arrive on the scene. In evidence to the committee, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins of Police Scotland outlined that if the bill proceeds, all serving officers up to the level of inspector in the force will undergo an upskilling programme on railway policing—as we have heard today—which will include additional weeks of training in railway policing for all new officers. That would mean that post integration, if an incident occurred at a station that was untended—as many are, outwith the central belt—there would be greater confidence that those who respond are adequately trained in how to handle the situation. That general upskilling of all officers can only be a good thing.

Elaine Smith

I am genuinely interested in what that would mean in respect of personal track safety certificates. Is Mairi Evans saying that all officers would have them?

Mairi Evans

That point has already been answered today. It may be that not all officers will have those certificates. There is more information on that to come forward, which the committee did not receive.

Chief Superintendent Crossan of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents said that should integration go ahead, Police Scotland’s ability consistently and easily to use its resources in railway policing—which the BTP currently has to request—could lead to “an enhancement of service”.

In supplementary evidence, the committee heard that in 2016, 1749 incidents were recorded on the Police Scotland Storm Unity command and control system as an external force request—the BTP is categorised as an external force. In addition, Police Scotland received 4,500 calls from the BTP. There is clearly much crossover between the two forces, which would be streamlined and more adequately dealt with should they be integrated under one command structure.

I understand that there are many fears and concerns associated with the proposed integration—we heard much about some of the issues in the committee’s evidence sessions. Foremost among them were concerns about something that must be ensured in the process, if it goes ahead: the BTP’s specialist knowledge, expertise and ethos, which John Finnie talked about, must be retained. That was directly addressed by Police Scotland in its evidence to the committee. It outlined its plans to create in its ranks a specialist railway policing division that will draw on the experience and expertise of current BTP Scotland officers and provide general railway policing training to all officers, which will create a better-trained base and will not lose the knowledge and ability of the specialist group.

We were also given assurances that those who wish to continue to police the railways will do exactly that, as we heard the minister outline.

Concern was expressed about funding for training, and both Police Scotland and the Minister for Transport and the Islands said in their evidence that training costs should be met from efficiency savings. As integration progresses and the full training needs are assessed by the joint programme board, the picture will become clearer. The committee has asked the Scottish Government to report to Parliament on that.

One of the main fears came from BTP employees and was about security of their salaries and employment. The Transport Salaried Staffs Association presented us with evidence of a survey that showed that 37.5 per cent of staff said that they intend to leave if integration goes ahead. However, the majority of those people based that view on the belief that they would be made redundant. We heard that that would not be the case, and we have heard about the triple-lock guarantee that the Government has given, but as John Finnie suggested, it is not really members who need to be persuaded. Clearly a lot of work needs to be done to persuade staff members and BTP officers that that will not be the case.

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill has raised questions, and clarity is still needed in some areas—that detail is currently being worked on by the joint programme board. There are questions that I trust will be answered as the bill progresses. I can completely understand some of the concerns that have been expressed and some of the fears that are held by the staff who will be affected. There will be such concerns and fears with any big change. However, I strongly support the general principles of the bill.

16:49  



Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

The biggest concern with the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill—specifically the proposed integration of the British Transport Police’s Scottish division into Police Scotland—is simply this: it does not make sense.

The Smith commission recommended bringing the staff and the powers of the BTP within the remit of the Scottish Parliament. In 2015, the Scottish Government said:

“we believe the functions of the British Transport Police should be integrated within”

Police Scotland, which

“will ensure the most efficient and effective delivery of all policing in Scotland”.

The committee heard that the BTPA set out three ways in which the devolution of functions could be achieved, but the Scottish Government only consulted on one option—merger. The BTP called that option

“the most complex route to devolution”,

but it is the only option that has been brought forward. That is, apparently, because merger is Mr Matheson’s long-term ambition. Notwithstanding that, let us take “efficient and effective delivery” as the required destination. Will the merger achieve that? It will not, according to the Rail Delivery Group, which says that integrating the service is not in passengers’ interests. Nor does the BTP think that the merger will achieve “efficient and effective delivery”. It warns that

“a deep and clear understanding of the unique requirements of the railway”

will be lost. The British Transport Police Federation does not think that it will achieve it and warns of “potentially life-threatening” consequences, and neither does the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, which says that specialist policing on the railways will be lost forever, which will adversely impact the safety and security of rail workers and passengers.

John Mason

Will the member give way?

Liam Kerr

Please be very quick.

John Mason

Police Scotland does a lot of specialist work. Is it not slightly insulting to it to say that it could not handle the railways?

Liam Kerr

Absolutely not.

ScotRail cited the Netherlands, where the railway police have been incorporated into a single national police corps, and noted that there have been great difficulties with that approach. It expressed concerns and has warned that there would be a “loss of specialism”. The proposals do not make sense.

Make no mistake—this is about specialists. According to The Railway Magazine, the BTP understands the industry’s safety culture and operations and is part of the “railway family”. Since 2001, it has been comprehensively reviewed by Government and independent bodies four times—more than any other police force in the country. Their unanimous conclusions are that the BTP is efficient and effective and should be kept as a specialist and separate force for the whole British railway network.

Chief Constable Crowther told the committee that railway policing is “substantially different”. We are talking about specialists with specialist skills. The committee heard evidence that fatalities that are responded to by officers who are inexperienced in railway policing take 50 per cent longer to deal with, that cable theft offences take 33 per cent longer to manage, and that train operators claim to have

“a level of confidence that BTP will hand the service back to the train operator within 70 minutes.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 1 November 2016; c 14.]

Mairi Evans

Will the member take an intervention?

Liam Kerr

There is no time.

It was noted that an incident at Carluke that was handled by Police Scotland took 107 minutes, with resultant delays that incurred costs of approximately £160,000. Furthermore, the Samaritans has highlighted the specialist skills the BTP has in dealing with suicides, as well as with traumatised staff in the wake of train-line deaths.

Will the resource remain available? CrossCountry is concerned that, post-merger, BTP officers will be deployed to non-railway duties in an attempt to fill funding and resource gaps, which will leave the network’s policing diluted and underresourced.

My next point is important: BTP officers themselves report that, due to the uncertainty over terms and conditions and pensions, staff might leave, which will impact on experience, operational capability and service delivery.

Earlier, the committee convener raised funding issues. At present, 95 per cent of the BTP’s funding comes jointly from the train operating companies, Network Rail and Transport for London. However, as the BTPA pointed out in its submission in January to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee:

“There are centralised police support functions provided by BTP which would need to be replicated in Scotland in an eventual merger ... This will need to be reconciled with budget pressures”.

The proposals do not make sense.

The committee heard that confusion and delays in crime solving will arise from two forces operating across Britain—to say nothing of BTP officers not having legal jurisdiction to operate as constables in Scotland. BTP officers are trained and authorised to carry Tasers; in Scotland, only specialist firearms officers are so armed. Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins suggested that BTP officers deal with

“25 or 30 bomb threats a month”

due to abandoned baggage, and with hundreds of incidents in which people are either

“restrained from jumping or ... removed from the tracks in close proximity to death.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 25-26.]

That is specialist stuff indeed that requires specialist joined-up action.

The committee heard about the implications for specialist trains, including those that carry nuclear weapons, Ministry of Defence trains, and the royal train, and of having to switch officers at Carlisle to a “generalist”. What happens if there is an incident on the railway at Alnmouth that continues to Dunbar? In whose jurisdiction will that be? Which force would be in charge? Will that change? Will the BTP jump off and Police Scotland jump on at the border?

It does not make sense to pursue the merger, when the rail operators, the rail unions, the travelling public, the BTP Federation and the BTP itself do not want it. It does not make sense to pursue the merger, when Deputy Chief Constable Hanstock has remarked that

“We have not been able to identify any operational or economic benefits.”

It does not make sense to pursue the merger when the potential impacts on cross-border capabilities are so compromised.

Michael Matheson appears to be the first member of the Scottish Parliament in history to attempt to deploy the Chewbacca defence to justify proposals. I hope that he will be the last. The Parliament should ensure that sense and the interests of safer Scottish rail services prevail. Members should vote no at 5.30 this afternoon.

16:55  



Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

I am proud to support the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill and to speak in support of the Government motion. As members have said, the bill’s general principles are supported by a majority of the Justice Committee, including John Finnie and Liam McArthur—I am grateful for their contributions throughout our evidence sessions.

I came to the issue objectively and, during those sessions, I was reassured on issues to do with capacity, ethos, specialism and abstraction. I will touch on all those issues. I have also been enthused by the opportunity that the bill presents. As Mairi Evans pointed out, legislation is not about fixing something that is broken; it is about how we use the law and Government policy to improve service.

The integration of the British Transport Police and Police Scotland as proposed in the bill has the potential to improve railway policing throughout Scotland and to provide a better service for all of Scotland. Integration can enhance policing by allowing direct access to the specialist and operational resources of Police Scotland, and a more integrated and effective service will complement and strengthen what is currently offered.

Operators have expressed support for the bill. As Fulton MacGregor said, TransPennine Express said that it is an “opportunity”. Darren Horley from Virgin Trains, which operates the east coast main line, said:

“From a Virgin Trains point of view, it is an opportunity.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 21 March 2017; c 9.]

From Police Scotland’s operational point of view, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said:

“It is a sensible move ... Police Scotland currently looks after the entire transport network in Scotland ... so it is sensible for it to look after the rail network as well.”

That is contrary to what Liam Kerr said.

On capacity, ACC Higgins said:

“the reality is that Police Scotland is the second-largest force in the United Kingdom, with some 17,000 officers and assets that are simply not available to the British Transport Police D division. Although at present we will deploy those assets on request, they will be routinely deployed should integration take place. That will lead to greater effectiveness and efficiency and, in my view, a greater ability to deploy more resource to locations that currently do not receive them.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 4, 6.]

That is the benefit for the whole of Scotland. Chief Constable Crowther from the BTP said:

“Police Scotland has the full range of specialist capabilities available to it ... In terms of operational capabilities, Police Scotland has everything that it needs.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 6.]

The capacity to police the railway is there, and the opportunities that are presented by the economies of scale that integration offers have strong support from Police Scotland and operators.

There has been much talk in the debate about two important issues—specialism and abstraction. A third issue, which has not been mentioned, is ethos. The British Transport Police said in its written and oral evidence that the maintenance of a transport policing ethos will be important should integration take place. I was reassured when the cabinet secretary told the committee that

“the current ethos”

will be

“recognised and maintained and taken forward in how railway policing is delivered.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 28 March 2017; c 20.]

ACC Higgins reassured the committee that

“there is a very strong ethos in the BTP, which we would want to retain ... One of Police Scotland’s strengths is not necessarily our single ethos or aim of keeping people safe, but the multiple cultures that we have within the organisation.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 10-11.]

It is important to remember that there have been strong commitments that specialism will be maintained and to remember that the extra training of police officers that will take place is in addition to the specialist policing function that will remain in Police Scotland. It is important to clarify that that specialist function will remain should integration take place; the additional training will be over and above that and will add value.

At the beginning of the process, the committee had concerns about and took evidence on the possibility of abstraction. The position was articulated in the recommendation in paragraph 95 of the stage 1 report, and I was reassured by the Scottish Government’s response that

“Police Scotland has given the Committee clear assurances that railway police officers would not be abstracted to other duties, with the obvious exception of a crisis situation.”

I warmly welcome that response, as the point is incredibly important.

I am mindful of the time. I welcome the fact that the dialogue between the Scottish Government, operators and other parties involved has been constructive and I hope that that will continue. On terms and conditions, access to the current pension schemes is an important point and I welcome the minister’s positive statements on that.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Elaine Smith, to be followed by Stewart Stevenson. I give fair warning that Mr Stevenson will be the last speaker in the open debate and that he will probably get six minutes.

17:01  



Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Not only as a Labour MSP but as convener of the RMT’s parliamentary group, I speak in opposition to the Scottish Government’s plans to abolish the BTP in Scotland. It is not only Labour and the RMT that oppose the legislation; STUC policy is to oppose it, and that was confirmed at the STUC’s 2017 congress last month. BTP officers do not want it; the BTP Federation does not want it; all the rail unions certainly do not want it; even train operators do not want it; and, according to the responses to the Government’s consultation, very few of the public want it either.

John Mason

Will the member give way?

Elaine Smith

I ask the member to please give me a moment to get started.

If the SNP simply batters on against the majority opinion and introduces unwanted legislation, what will the consequences be? Not only will it have a railway that is operated by companies from abroad, expensive to use and regularly disrupted, but we will have no dedicated police force to look after it, and the specialist skills of some transport officers will be at risk of being lost. That will lead to a less safe railway. We are already hearing about officers leaving the BTP in Scotland to transfer to units in England and Wales so that they do not have to be part of Police Scotland and so that they can keep their specialist status.

I will take an intervention from Fulton MacGregor, who took one from me.

Fulton MacGregor

I realise how opposed Elaine Smith is to the motion and the general principles of the bill. I wonder why her party did not lodge something for the chamber to vote on. Was it depending on the Tory amendment being accepted?

Elaine Smith

Our party is against the proposal, as are the unions and the other bodies that I mentioned. That is the side that we are on and that is how we will be voting—against the legislation.

In addition, only one option was consulted on and, to be frank, that is outrageous.

The minister and others mentioned Police Scotland’s Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, but even ACC Higgins acknowledged that there was a

“risk that ... that skills base will be diluted”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 29.]

The Scottish Government seems to be saying that integration will provide the most efficient and effective way of policing our railways, but when Governments talk about efficiencies, that tends to mean one thing—cuts. The reality is that the change will cost more.

Today, the STUC expressed concern about the inadequate provision in the financial memorandum that accompanies the bill. The RMT has said that the proposed reforms

“will require rail service operators on both sides of the border, particularly where the service crosses the border, to have the same operational agreement with two separate police forces, where currently only one Railway Policing Agreement ... is required.”

That will mean unnecessary spending at a time of cuts to other public services.

On top of that, there are practical issues to do with policing the rail infrastructure. On 14 March, the RMT told the Justice Committee that

“Police Scotland would not have access to our railways if there was a derailment or a collision or any trespass on a railway. If Police Scotland officers do not have a PTS certificate, they cannot go on or near the running line.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 59.]

Is the Government seriously proposing to have officers dealing with our railways who cannot attend the scene of a crime? If so, that is deeply worrying.

A further concern for the RMT and the other unions is that the bill does not contain a statutory requirement for the rail unions to be consulted when the reforms go ahead. That is the kind of approach to trade unions that we might expect from a Tory Administration; perhaps it shows that it is easy for the SNP to make promises about working in partnership with unions but then to ignore them when it comes to the reality of involving them. I hope that the Government will think again about that.

Rona Mackay

Will the member take an intervention?

Elaine Smith

I am afraid that I do not really have time.

Given that, overall, no criticism has been made of the work of the BTP’s D division, why does the Government want to make such a dramatic change? If the reason is simply because it can, that logic does not serve well the safety of those who travel on our railways. The Government’s policy memorandum states:

“BTP officers in Scotland and in England have a strong track record of joint working on cross-border routes, and in tackling crime affecting the railway network on both sides of the border.”

That sounds like a ringing endorsement.

I think that many people are confused about why the proposed move is even being considered. When the Smith commission recommended devolution of responsibility for the BTP, it did not suggest that the organisation should be dismantled. In my opinion, there were far more sensible and less costly options, and it is unacceptable that the Scottish Government did not at least consult on them.

In a press release today, the RMT has said that

“The safety and security of rail workers and passengers will be put at greater risk if MSPs do not oppose the Scottish Government’s legislative plans to abolish the British Transport Police”,

and it asks MSPs to

“put aside ideology and party loyalty and oppose the Scottish Government’s proposals”.

In a letter to members that was also issued today, the STUC has said:

“We call on MSPs to reject the Stage 1 Report and to refer the matter to Scottish Government, to allow for consideration of a far wider range of options”.

It is clear that the service could be provided by the British Transport Police with the oversight of the Scottish Government, and that is exactly what should happen. The majority of respondents, police, the trade unions and some operating companies oppose the bill, and Parliament should vote against it tonight.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Stewart Stevenson, after which we will move to the closing speeches.

17:07  



Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I am obliged, Presiding Officer.

Before I start the main part of my speech, I want to pick up on a couple of things that have been said. It is strange that, in talking about nuclear trains, Liam Kerr seems to have been unaware of the role of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary—as opposed to the BTP—in that regard. Oliver Mundell—this is a more important and substantial point—said that there is one rail network in the UK, but he is wrong: there are two. The GB network is the one that is policed by the BTP, but it is one of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s responsibilities to police the railways in Northern Ireland. It polices the railways in the island of Ireland jointly with the Garda Síochána, which is a perfectly satisfactory arrangement. The safety arrangements and achievements in Ireland appear to be quite similar to those in the UK.

Oliver Mundell

Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson

I will not.

I want to say a word or two about what the BTP is. Its origins are very ancient. The first railway police were formed in 1826, three years before the Metropolitan Police. There have been many reforms in the nearly 200 years since the first railway police were established. The set of reforms that we are considering today is one in a long line of reforms and changes.

What is the BTP about? It is about providing a physical presence that is seen by passengers and staff on the rail network. That is probably the most important thing, but a key thing to remember is that hardly any of the public know that the officers concerned are not from Police Scotland—to members of the public, they are just police.

I can give an example from some years ago when, on my way to the station, I found some money lying in the street. I took it to the BTP at Waverley station and I was told that I had to go to a different police station to hand it in. That is just a little example from about 10 years ago so it is not necessarily current.

Like all police, the BTP also has to deal with offending. I heard from Douglas Ross that the amount of offending would overwhelm Police Scotland. However, the number of offences is less than—

Douglas Ross

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I am sure that Mr Stevenson does not want to mislead Parliament. He said that I told Parliament that the increases would overwhelm Police Scotland—

Sorry, my card is not in.

Stewart Stevenson

Oh, come on. Presiding Officer—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That is not a point of order.

Douglas Ross

It is for clarity.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Please sit down just now and I will let Mr Stevenson make clear what he wants to say.

Stewart Stevenson

I am happy to acknowledge the substantive point that Douglas Ross made, if that is correct, as I am sure that he would not mislead me. However, the number of offences that are dealt with by the BTP is less than 10 per day and I am not sure that that will overwhelm the resources of Police Scotland. The number of recorded crimes is 5.5 per day—is that going to overwhelm the Police Scotland systems?

Besides dealing with offending, the BTP is there to deal with—[Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Minister and Mr Ross, you are both being very impolite to the speaker.

Stewart Stevenson

The other vital role of the BTP is the strategic role that is related to terrorism. In a UK Parliament committee session, DCC Hanstock said:

“In the hierarchy of risk, the biggest threat is terrorism. The challenge of protecting a network that is so wide and open, and the risk being so unpredictable, causes us the greatest level of concern”.

Let us think about interfaces. There are 45 territorial forces in the United Kingdom and there are three national forces—the BTP, the Ministry of Defence Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. After the reform, what will the number be? Exactly the same. It is just that some of one will go to another. There will still be 45 plus three. The number of interfaces is 990—arithmetic—and there will still be 990 interfaces after the reform.

Does any of that matter? Ninety-five per cent of rail passenger journeys that are made in Scotland are wholly in Scotland so, at the moment, those passengers interface with a police force that is separate from the force that deals with all the other crime. With the reform, they will interface with the police force that deals with all crime and offences throughout Scotland, so we will dramatically reduce the number of interfaces that the public has to deal with.

Even if every police officer had a track access certificate, it would be unwise to rely on that. I have a motorcycle licence, but I have not been on a bike since 1969. It is legal for me to get on one tomorrow, but it would be very unwise to do so because I am out of practice. Police officers should only go on the railway line in the most extreme of circumstances, certificate or not. If a mother pushed her pram over a platform, I hope that I would shout to somebody to tell me whether a train was coming and jump to rescue them. I think that a police officer would do the same. However, it is important that the core role be in the hands of people who have a track access certificate.

Of 300-plus railway stations in Scotland, only a dozen have BTP officers present. The majority of railway stations in Scotland are covered by Police Scotland and that will continue.

Finally, I hear everything that my Labour colleagues have said, but they had better tell that to the Labour Mayor of London who wants to integrate the BTP into the Metropolitan Police. They are saying one thing in Scotland and we are hearing another thing in London.

I strongly support the bill and, Presiding Officer, I thank you for the six minutes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Do not bank on it, because it was not a point of order in the first place. I just felt kind.

17:14  



Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

In closing for Scottish Labour, I repeat the stance taken by my colleagues that we do not support the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

As a member of the Justice Committee, I thank the witnesses for their input and evidence, and the clerks for their support during the stage 1 inquiry. However, I do not share the majority opinion of the committee in supporting the bill.

The TSSA, the RMT, ASLEF and the British Transport Police Federation all oppose the proposed merger, and for serious and justifiable reasons. Those are the people who know what is best for the security and safety of the staff and passengers of our railways. While we agreed to the devolution of the function of railway policing by the Smith commission, there was no agreement about what that devolution would look like. Further, no party has a manifesto commitment to integrate D division into Police Scotland.

The Smith commission recommended that:

“The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter.”

As my colleague Neil Bibby rightly said,

“it would be profoundly wrong to suggest that the integration of the BTP into Police Scotland is somehow a requirement or a stipulation of the Smith agreement”.

Questions have therefore arisen over the SNP’s motive in going further than Smith’s proposals.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association believes that

“the desire to integrate is the product first and foremost of a political agenda that overrides the implications for policing that ensures the safety and security of rail passengers and workers as well as the infrastructure of the railway system.”

Those are strong words, but they are words from those who know better than the transport minister and the justice minister about what is best when policing our transport system.

The risks of the merger have been warned of by unions representing rail and British Transport Police staff. Those identified risks cover the impact on cross-border services, a dilution of expertise and skills, retaining the skilled and experienced BTP staff, the potential impact on safety and security, and the unknown costs of training for rail operators and Police Scotland. As my colleague Elaine Smith pointed out, that is why the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has warned:

“We have not ruled out the option of taking industrial action to retain BTP officers on the railway, because we are concerned about the safety of railway staff and passengers on trains in Scotland.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 41.]

We need cast-iron guarantees from the Government that no existing terms or conditions of BTP officers and staff will be diluted and that any new officers will not be paid less if the integration succeeds. I accept that guarantees have been given about the triple lock, but that has not satisfied the staff associations, and much more needs to be done.

I share the Justice Committee’s apprehensions about the financial memorandum that accompanies the bill. In its desire unnecessarily to break up the BTP, the Government has not done its homework and its costing. For example, on training costs, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said that Police Scotland would provide railway policing training for all officers. That led Nigel Goddard of the BTP Federation and Chief Superintendent McBride of the BTP superintendents branch to join the RMT and Virgin Trains in questioning the reality of the costs behind such a training scheme. The transport minister does not know the costs, the rail operators do not know the costs, the unions do not know the costs, and even Police Scotland does not know the costs.

The bill is no further forward on cost and has no support from the workforce. There is no confidence that the Government is prepared to deal with the risks arising from the proposed merger. There is no case for the bill and it should be scrapped. If the BTP isn’t broke, why fix it? Why risk making things worse?

The Scottish Government should listen to the officers on the ground, the railway staff and their unions, the passengers and the rail operators, and scrap the bill. That is why Scottish Labour will vote against it today.

17:19  



Gordon Lindhurst (Lothian) (Con)

The debate has allowed us to reflect on the evidence that was given to the Justice Committee during stage 1 consideration of the bill. I echo the thanks given to those who provided evidence to the committee. Much of that evidence was opposed to the one option that was consulted on by the Scottish Government, and that despite the fact that three options were put forward by the British Transport Police Authority.

The evidence against the bill is best summed up in the quote from The Railway Magazine that my colleague Liam Kerr referred to earlier.

I know that legislative or operational changes to our railways can very often be a bone of contention between stakeholders. The UK has a proud history in rail transportation, and that may sometimes lead to entrenched views clashing. However, The Railway Magazine said of opposition to the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill:

“it is rare to find a topic that the unions, rail industry and stakeholders all agree upon.”

That quote is very telling, as it suggests how ill thought out the process has been.

In opening for the Scottish Conservatives in this debate, my colleague Douglas Ross made it clear that our party supports the Smith commission recommendations. However, devolution offers the chance to keep the single British Transport Police force and all the experience that it provides while introducing a level of accountability in Scotland.

My colleague Mr Ross was also correct in identifying what appears to be the real reason why the Scottish Government has opted for the most difficult of three options: the SNP’s stubbornness and its obsession with cutting ties with anything that includes the word “British”. That is reflective of its general approach of ignoring at any cost the undoubted benefits that being part of the United Kingdom brings. That cost must not be the safety of rail passengers in Scotland.

The convener of the Justice Committee, my colleague Oliver Mundell and others have pointed to a number of questions about current terms, conditions, pension rights and benefits that must be answered. That is vital if Police Scotland is to retain the skills, knowledge and expertise that British Transport Police officers and staff have acquired.

Liam Kerr referred to what the Samaritans said:

“BTP have specialist knowledge of suicide and mental health issues in rail settings, which must be protected and encouraged.”

In my view, it is essential that work is done to guarantee that those specialisms are not lost.

Police Scotland has committed to providing railway training for all police officers—that has been referred to. However, questions about that have been asked in this debate. How much will that cost? Who will pay? Perhaps more important, what level of expertise will such training offer?

In effect, the SNP Government seeks to erect a border on the railways. Will British Transport Police officers who are heading north have to disembark from trains that are heading into Scotland, to be replaced by a Police Scotland officer?

John Finnie

Will the member take an intervention?

Gordon Lindhurst

No, I will not at this stage. My time has been reduced.

I recall how cross-border policing in the general context caused the same difficulty years ago and how that had to be resolved. Instead of making progress there, it seems that the SNP wishes to step back yet again into the past.

As the British Transport Police Federation pointed out, confusion, delays and cost are just some of the effects that passengers will feel. What about cross-border train services that carry football supporters or other specialist operations? British Transport Police deals with all those things seamlessly on a day-to-day basis. The Government will have to think very carefully and very hard about what will be done at a practical level to ensure that the current level of protection continues for all rail services if the SNP’s plans are to be progressed.

The Scottish Government should now step back and fully consider all three options, including greater scrutiny and accountability in the Scottish Parliament, and greater alignment between the British Transport Police and Police Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Please conclude.

Gordon Lindhurst

I urge parties across the chamber to vote with the Scottish Conservatives against the general principles of the bill.

17:24  



The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

I thank the Justice Committee for its work in scrutinising the bill at stage 1, and I thank those who submitted written and oral evidence to the committee.

Anyone who has an interest in the policing of our railways in Scotland can be in no doubt about the Government’s position on how that service should be delivered in the future. We set out in 2011, and restated in 2013 and again in 2014, the position that railway policing should be a devolved matter and should be integrated with policing in Scotland, with Police Scotland as the national force.

We put forward that proposal to the Smith commission, and it was agreed that responsibility for railway policing should be devolved, although I accept that there are differing views on which model should be taken forward. We are therefore responsible for putting in place a model to deliver railway policing and provide for accountability for and scrutiny of its delivery.

Some members, including Claire Baker and Oliver Mundell, have accused us of trying to railroad the bill through Parliament, if members will pardon the pun. It is difficult to believe that that is what we would be doing, given that we are a minority Government that requires the support of other parties in order to proceed with legislation.

We have been stating our position on railway policing for almost six years, so it beggars belief that members would think that we have only now come up with a plan and are choosing to rush it through Parliament. Having made the decision to make railway policing a devolved responsibility, we need to create a model to enable accountability for and scrutiny of its delivery in the future.

A number of members referred to the available models. Some said that there are three models, although, in my view, there are four. One option is administrative devolution, but that would not give us the accountability that we need around the delivery of railway policing.

Oliver Mundell

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention on that point?

Michael Matheson

I ask the member to please give me a moment first.

We could have statutory devolution of railway policing, but again that would not provide for accountability and scrutiny, which would still be the responsibility of the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Transport. We could have integration, which is the model that we propose to take forward, or we could have a separate standalone police force in Scotland to deliver railway policing, with all the structure that would go with that.

Oliver Mundell

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention now?

Michael Matheson

There are four models, but in reality only one of those—the integration of the BTP with Police Scotland—can effectively deliver accountability and scrutiny.

I give way to Oliver Mundell.

Oliver Mundell

If the cabinet secretary wants to put accountability and scrutiny at the heart of the process, why does not he put all the options on the table and listen to what the organisations and stakeholders have to say?

Michael Matheson

Unlike Oliver Mundell’s party, which was not even able to respond to the consultation exercise with a proposal for an alternative model, we have been very clear for the past six years about which model we want to implement, and we are now taking it forward in legislation.

Another important issue—surprisingly, the Conservative Party has not touched on it in the debate—is the strategic defence and security review that the UK Government undertook in 2015. The review highlighted the need to look at how we can deliver more effective infrastructure policing and security in the UK and how we can integrate the policing of railways, roads, seaports, airports and borders to deliver policing much more effectively along with greater scrutiny and accountability, while delivering greater efficiency.

In Scotland, the policing of roads, seaports, airports and borders is all currently delivered by Police Scotland. The only area for which Police Scotland is not responsible is railway policing. Even the UK Government, in recognising the challenges that we face in policing major parts of our infrastructure, has highlighted the need for greater integration and co-ordination of how those are policed. That is exactly what the legislation will assist us to achieve. It will provide that single command structure for infrastructure policing in Scotland in a way that delivers greater security and more ways to respond to issues such as terrorism.

Some members have spoken about the risk that is posed by terrorism if we no longer have a specialist railway police force. The reality is that specialist railway policing will continue to be delivered by Police Scotland, just as it delivers specialist airport, port and border security and underwater policing. All those services are and will be delivered by specialist units in Police Scotland.

A single command structure will be much more effective and able to respond to issues such as terrorism. The reality is that should there be a significant terrorist event on our railways in Scotland—and God forbid that there should ever be one—Police Scotland would have to respond to it, using the national resource to deal with it effectively. The BTP simply does not have the specialism or the capacity in Scotland to be able to deal with such an incident.

I assure members that integrating the British Transport Police with Police Scotland will deliver greater accountability for and greater scrutiny of how policing is delivered in a major part of our infrastructure in Scotland. I also assure members that, over the coming weeks and months, as we progress the bill, the Minister for Transport and the Islands and I will engage constructively with all parties who have an interest in making sure that we deliver the intent of the bill effectively so that we provide proper and secure policing of our railways in Scotland.

Vote at Stage 1

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Vote at Stage 1 transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

There is one question to be put as a result of today’s business. The question is, that motion S5M-05423, in the name of Humza Yousaf, on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill at stage 1, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Against

Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Thomson, Ross (North East Scotland) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 66, Against 44, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

MSPs agreed that this Bill could continue

Stage 2 - Changes to detail 

MSPs can propose changes to the Bill. The changes are considered and then voted on by the committee.

Changes to the Bill

MSPs can propose changes to a Bill  these are called 'amendments'. The changes are considered then voted on by the lead committee.

The lists of proposed changes are known as a 'marshalled list'. There's a separate list for each week that the committee is looking at proposed changes.

The 'groupings' document groups amendments together based on their subject matter. It shows the order in which the amendments will be debated by the committee and in the Chamber. This is to avoid repetition in the debates.

How is it decided whether the changes go into the Bill?

When MSPs want to make a change to a Bill, they propose an 'amendment'. This sets out the changes they want to make to a specific part of the Bill.

The group of MSPs that is examining the Bill (lead committee) votes on whether it thinks each amendment should be accepted or not.

Depending on the number of amendments, this can be done during one or more meetings.

First meeting on changes

Documents with the changes considered at this meeting:

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First meeting on changes transcript

The Convener

Item 7 is consideration of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill at stage 2. I ask members to refer to their copies of the bill, the marshalled list of amendments and the groupings.

I welcome the Minister for Transport and the Islands and his officials.

Section 1—Provision for policing of railways and railway property

The Convener

Amendment 1, in the name of the minister, is in a group on its own.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf)

The committee’s stage 1 report recommended that

“the new section 85C(1) of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 (inserted by section 1 of the Bill) be amended at Stage 2 so that it is subject to the affirmative procedure.”

That recommendation picks up on the conclusion of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee’s stage 1 report on the bill that that procedure should be amended. The procedure relates to the future regulations that are to specify which rail operators, or classes of rail operator, are covered by the requirement to enter into a railway policing agreement. The DPLRC’s rationale for recommending a change to the procedure is that it provides for a greater level of parliamentary scrutiny of those regulations.

In correspondence with the DPLRC, we set out our view that the power to make those regulations is narrowly drawn and could be used only for the specified purpose. We also explained our view that applying the negative procedure to those regulations provided an appropriate balance between the need for parliamentary scrutiny and the effective use of parliamentary time and resource. However, as our written response to the committee’s stage 1 report indicated, in light of the views of both committees and the fact that such matters are always a balancing exercise, I am content to accept the recommendation. Therefore, I propose amendment 1 to change the procedure to the affirmative one.

I move amendment 1.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Section 1, as amended, agreed to.

Section 2—Chief constable’s functions in relation to policing of railways and railway property

The Convener

Amendment 3, in the name of Liam McArthur, is grouped with amendments 8, 9 and 14.

Liam McArthur

As colleagues will recall from the stage 1 debate, I have concerns about the content of the bill as well as the approach that the Government has taken.

On the latter, it was a mistake for ministers not to consult on more than a single option—merging the British Transport Police with Police Scotland. I recognise that that was their preferred option and understand that they might have found it difficult to persuade BTP officers and staff and the wider public that they were genuinely willing to consider others. However, not to bother asking for views comes across as blinkered, dogmatic and even a little arrogant. As a consequence, Parliament has been presented with a bill that has not been properly road tested and has attracted concerns, controversy and criticism from the majority of respondents to the Government’s consultation and to the committee’s call for evidence.

The amendments in the group, along with others that would inevitably have to be lodged for stage 3, seek to explore an alternative option. Clearly, this approach and the timing are less than ideal, but that is scarcely my fault or that of the amendments. It is certainly not the fault of the British Transport Police Authority, which made alternative proposals well before the bill was introduced to Parliament. We have the opportunity to give the Parliament and the Government greater oversight of the British Transport Police functions in Scotland. That opportunity respects the commitments and recommendations of the Smith commission and avoids many of the risks that the committee has heard arise directly as a result of the Government’s hasty decision to press ahead with full-blown merger.

I move amendment 3.

Stewart Stevenson

I hear the policy position that Liam McArthur expresses. I am glad to see that the Conservatives are now on the same side as the Scottish Government, as their manifesto proposes to abolish the British Transport Police south of the border without providing for any other options. However, that is neither here nor there.

Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson

No, he will not. You would not take one from me last week.

Liam McArthur’s choice of amendments is rather odd because, when we look at what he is doing, we see that the effect is to remove the oversight of the British Transport Police Authority from the British Transport Police in Scotland—that is fair enough; we can choose to do that—without putting any alternative oversight into the bill as it would be amended by his amendments. That seems a rather odd way to progress the policy position that he adopts. The construction of his amendments, by leaving section 1 in place, also creates a set of duties for the Scottish Police Authority in relation to railway policing in Scotland without correspondingly creating any oversight from the SPA for railway policing.

It seems a rather curious set of amendments that are not practically constructed to deliver the policy position that Liam McArthur seeks to take. I have the more principled point that I disagree with his policy position but, if the position were to be accepted, the amendments would not serve it properly.

Mary Fee

I am happy to support the amendments that Liam McArthur has lodged. The concerns that he raised are the ones that I have had throughout the bill process—that only one option was consulted on and that no other options were considered despite the fact that the British Transport Police Federation indicated in its written evidence that there were two other options that should have been consulted on and discussed. Not to include them is short-sighted and a fundamental flaw in the bill.

Douglas Ross

I am delighted that Stewart Stevenson recognises a Conservative victory in the general election. I will make sure that I repeat that as I go around my area. He will also know that what the Conservative Party proposes is quite different from what the Scottish nationalists propose in Scotland.

I support these amendments and reiterate the points that Liam McArthur made, which I made during the stage 1 debate in the chamber. The Government had only one view on the matter and did not consult the public. It is perfectly understandable why it did not consult on more options because, when people responded to it and to the committee, the majority were against the proposed merger of the British Transport Police with Police Scotland. That was a clear message. The Government should listen to that, and I hope that it will take cognisance of it if the amendments are agreed to.

Rona Mackay

I will not support Liam McArthur’s amendments for some of the reasons that Stewart Stevenson outlined. With regard to options, it is clear that the model that was chosen is the only one that makes the British Transport Police accountable to Scotland.

Douglas Ross

Will the member take an intervention on that point?

Rona Mackay

No.

Liam McArthur’s amendments also delay implementation until 2027, which is not acceptable. In effect, they ride a coach and horses through the bill, so I will not support them.

John Finnie

The key point is oversight, regardless of the model. I accept that people wanted different models but I do not know anyone who thought that it was appropriate to have less oversight, particularly at this juncture. We have seen in recent times the absolute need for scrutiny. I will not support amendment 3.

George Adam

I am here as a substitute, but I have managed to watch a lot of what has happened approaching this stage. Although Liam McArthur makes his points as eloquently as always, I will not support him, because I agree with everything that Stewart Stevenson said.

I find it bizarre that Douglas Ross is trying to defend the Tory party’s conversion to the Scottish Government’s policy. The wording of its manifesto is:

“We will create a national infrastructure police force, bringing together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and the British Transport Police to improve the protection of critical infrastructure”.

Is that not a very similar position to the Scottish Government’s? That clearly tells us what the Westminster Government’s position is but, obviously, if a Tory comes over the border in a train, plane or bus, they change their mind just because the Scottish Government comes up with the idea. The Tories need to look at themselves and the practicalities of what we are trying to achieve, which is to have a police service that is fit for purpose.

The Convener

Only one option was consulted on and that was a great mistake. Therefore, I support amendment 3. In relation to the point that Stewart Stevenson made, the amendment merely reverts to the status quo and we have concurrent jurisdiction at present.

12:00  



Humza Yousaf

I thank Liam McArthur in particular for his explanation of the reasons why he has lodged his amendments. They reflect much of what he said at the stage 1 debate.

Liam McArthur and other committee members will be fully aware of the Scottish Government’s intention in introducing the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, which is to make use of the powers over railway policing that are now devolved to this Parliament by integrating the British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland. We have made that intention abundantly clear from the outset, and it has been a long-standing policy position of the Government for many years, both before and after our proposals to the Smith commission that railway policing powers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament and that the BTP should be integrated into Police Scotland.

That may not take away from Liam McArthur’s concerns. Where they are constructive, the Government will of course always reflect on them. However, amendments 3 and 8 would leave the Scottish Police Authority with a power to enter into railway policing agreements with railway operators, under which Police Scotland would police the railways and railway property in Scotland without having all the powers needed to carry out that policing on a routine basis. There would be no duty on the chief constable of Police Scotland to ensure that policing of the railways was carried out in accordance with those agreements.

Amendment 9 would retain the policing functions of the BTP in Scotland but, as Stewart Stevenson eloquently said, the governance duties of the BTP Authority would no longer exist. If the intention underlying that amendment is that the BTP should continue to police the railways and railway property in Scotland, it is not clear to me how that is to be reconciled with the lack of any governance and accountability relationship between the Scottish Police Authority and the BTP. It is equally unclear how funding for the BTP’s policing of the railways in Scotland would be secured, as section 2 continues to permit the SPA to enter into railway policing agreements in respect of Police Scotland only.

If the objective is that the BTP should police the railways in Scotland and be accountable for that to the Scottish Police Authority and to this Parliament while also policing the railways in England and Wales with accountability for that being to the BTPA and the UK Parliament, then my clear and previously expressed view is that that would prove complex and confusing for all concerned. It is hard to see how Scotland’s interests and geography would receive the attention that they deserve within a framework that will inevitably remain dominated by the complex needs of railway policing in London and the south-east of England.

How that accountability might work is also far from clear. The legislative basis for it would need to be established, and the amendments do not set that out. However, even if they did, for the reasons that I have just given, we do not think that that would be a satisfactory solution.

Putting all that aside, and as other members have mentioned, Liam McArthur will be aware of the manifesto commitment that the Conservative Party has made—both the UK party and the Scottish Conservatives—to

“create a national infrastructure police force, bringing together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and the British Transport Police to improve the protection of critical infrastructure such as nuclear sites, railways and the strategic road network.”

If the Conservatives win the election and have their way, there will no longer be a British Transport Police. We would have to wait to see exactly what form the new national infrastructure force would take. I do not expect that this Parliament is likely to have any influence over that, but we would of course keenly await news if we were depending on it to police Scotland’s railways. I am not aware whether that commitment has gone out to public consultation or indeed whether other options were considered.

From what we know, I hope that I can persuade Liam McArthur that rejecting the opportunity to have a railway policing function within Police Scotland that is fully accountable to the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament would not be a good use of the powers over railway policing that have been devolved.

The alternative before us, if a UK Conservative Government is returned, would appear to be to have railway policing in Scotland integrated with the policing of the strategic road network of England and Wales, but not with that of Scotland, and integrated not with the policing of the whole of Scotland’s transport infrastructure—ports, roads and airports—but instead with the policing of nuclear sites.

It also appears from various press reports that the national infrastructure police force would be predominantly an armed force—that is what a recent article in the Police Oracle suggested. I invite Liam McArthur to reflect on whether that is the path that he wishes to go down.

I ask Liam McArthur not to press the amendments but, if they are pressed, I urge the committee to reject them for the reasons that I have set forth.

Liam McArthur

I thank everybody for their contributions. In particular, I thank Douglas Ross, the convener and Mary Fee for their support for the amendments. I recognise that my concerns are shared by some colleagues on the committee.

I also thank those who do not feel able to support the amendments—either because of the principle or because of the way in which they were lodged—for the way in which they conveyed their concerns. The comments from Stewart Stevenson set the tone for those of others. The timing and the approach are not necessarily of my choosing, but the amendments are an attempt, even at this late stage, to fashion a way to road test the alternative approach that the BTPA set out, which it did in good time and which could have been consulted on. The BTPA made it clear that statutory oversight of BTP functions in Scotland was perfectly possible short of a full merger with Police Scotland. As I said before, it is regrettable that that was not explored explicitly.

I thank George Adam for referring to my comments as eloquent. I do not recall that he ever said anything as nice about me in the however many years it was that we were on the Education and Culture Committee. Once the whips find out what he said, his stay on the Justice Committee may be time limited.

I also thank the minister for engaging with me over my concerns about the bill, from the outset and throughout, and I acknowledge his willingness to engage with the stakeholders who raised concerns about the proposals. Nevertheless, we are where we are as a result of the Government approaching the matter on the basis that there is only one option. I do not accept that. A great deal more work will need to be done ahead of stage 3 to address the concerns that have been raised about the need for proper oversight of BTP functions in Scotland.

I will press amendment 3.

The Convener

The question is, that amendment 3 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Convener

There will be a division.

For

Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Against

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Convener

The result of the division is: For 5, Against 6, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 3 disagreed to.

Section 2 agreed to.

After section 2

The Convener

Amendment 4, in the name of Douglas Ross, is grouped with amendments 5 to 7.

Douglas Ross

Members and, indeed, the minister will be aware that during our discussions as a committee and with numerous witnesses, concern was raised about the training of officers if the integration of the BTP and Police Scotland goes ahead. At this stage, it is important to remind ourselves of our deliberations with some quotations.

I asked the rail operators how they would react if Police Scotland said that it was not going to put all officers through the training for personal track safety certificates. Neil Curtis of Direct Rail Services Ltd said, “We would be concerned,” and Darren Horley of Virgin Trains said:

“We would be very concerned.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 21 March 2017; c 27.]

I move on to the panel of witnesses that included Nigel Goodband of the BTP. I asked:

“What implications will there be if officers in Scotland are not trained to the same level as BTP officers and they do not have a personal track safety certificate?”

Nigel Goodband replied:

“Every officer in Police Scotland who intends to police the railway—or go anywhere near the railway—will have to have the personal track safety certificate.”

Chief Superintendent McBride, also of the BTP, said:

“We go through ... personal safety training because, from a health and safety point of view, it is necessary to protect our officers ...That is why we do ... PTS. The benefits that flow from that are all geared to the public and to recovering operations more quickly when they have been brought to a stop by a criminal act or mental health episode.”

When Michael Hogg of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers spoke about BTP officers, he said:

“They are properly trained, and having staff with a personal track safety certificate is crucial. Anything else is pure nonsense, as far as we are concerned.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 40, 41.]

Should the merger go ahead, it would be “pure nonsense” for us as a committee not to include our clear expectation that all officers in Police Scotland who have an opportunity to move into railway policing either as dedicated railway policing officers or at the request of the chief constable and others should—they must—have a personal track safety certificate.

I have lodged a further amendment that stipulates and requests that the Scottish Government brings information on the costs of training to the Parliament for scrutiny. That issue was raised by Dr Murray in her paper, too.

My amendments add to the committee’s deliberations and discussions. Should the bill be passed, the amendments will be vital in ensuring that both officers and the public whom they serve in policing our railways are adequately protected.

I move amendment 4.

The Convener

I will speak to amendment 6, which is in my name, and the other amendments in the group. Amendments 6 and 7 complement Douglas Ross’s amendments 4 and 5. Amendments 4 and 5 provide that Police Scotland officers must be trained and the cost of that training must be reported. My amendments 6 and 7 seek to ensure that no officer can enter a railway property without a PTS certificate having been obtained.

At stage 1, the committee heard evidence from the British Transport Police Federation that

“Every officer in Police Scotland who intends to police the railway—or go anywhere near the railway—will have to have the personal track safety certificate.”

The RMT agreed, saying:

“Police Scotland would not have access to our railways if there was a derailment or a collision or any trespass on a railway. If Police Scotland officers do not have a PTS certificate, they cannot go on or near the running line.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 40, 59.]

The rail operators all concurred with those statements.

The stage 1 report notes that

“The Committee wrote to Police Scotland for clarification on the nature and type of training that it intends to provide to all police officers post-integration, and on whether all officers are to undertake Personal Track Safety Certificate training.”

In his response, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins explained that Police Scotland’s

“training curriculum for new recruits at SPC”—

the Scottish Police College—

“is currently under review”.

Amendment 6 clearly sets out the requirement for personal track safety certificate training for police constables, and amendment 7 would ensure that the training would be to the same standards as that attained by BTP officers, by requiring the making of regulations specifying the level of training. That would be done in consultation with the Office of Rail and Road and Network Rail, which specify the current level of training for the BTP. The amendments would ensure that police officers operating on the railways undertake personal track safety certificate training to the level that BTP officers are required to attain.

Do members have any comments on or questions about the amendments?

Stewart Stevenson

I want to engage on the construction of the amendments, and I will address amendment 6 in your name, convener. Before I do that, I agree with the quote—we could hardly disagree with it—used by Douglas Ross: every officer who intends to police the railway needs to have a personal track safety certificate. However, we need to be cautious about what that means.

Amendment 6 says:

“A constable must not enter a railway property ... unless that constable has completed personal track safety training.”

What is a “railway property”?

Douglas Ross

Will the member give way to allow me to clarify the quote that he alluded to?

Stewart Stevenson

I only cited part of the quote—I accept that.

Douglas Ross

It is important to give the full quote.

Stewart Stevenson

I invite you to complete the bit that you think I missed that matters.

Douglas Ross

I am grateful to the member for giving way. I gave the full quotation, which is:

“Every officer in Police Scotland who intends to police the railway—or go anywhere near the railway—will have to have the personal track safety certificate.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 40.]

12:15  



Stewart Stevenson

I accept that, but you will find that that will merely reinforce the point that I am about to make, which is this: what is the definition of “railway property”?

The definition of railway property in the bill, at proposed new section 85M(1) of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, provides a list, which specifically includes

“a station”

and

“a train used on a network”.

Without a track safety certificate, a police constable would not be able to enter a station that I am perfectly entitled to walk into any time I choose to do so although I do not have a track safety certificate. Furthermore, I can enter and use a train without having a track safety certificate but amendment 6 would prohibit a constable from being able to exercise that same right.

Proposed new section 85M(3) of the 2012 act makes further reference to the definition of “railway property” in the Railways Act 1993. Section 83 of the 1993 act states that a station

“means any land or other property which consists of premises used as, or for the purposes of, or otherwise in connection with, a railway passenger station or railway passenger terminal (including any approaches, forecourt, cycle store or car park), whether or not the land or other property is, or the premises are, also used for other purposes”.

Therefore a police constable—who is a constable, whether on duty or not—would be prohibited from cycling to a station and putting his bicycle in the car park, and from purchasing a ticket in the station booking office, because he is not permitted to be there without a track safety certificate. He would also not be permitted to use a train to travel to another destination.

It actually goes further than that. There are already circumstances where police constables, as part of their job with Police Scotland, enter the tracks without track safety certificates—that would be prohibited by amendment 6. For example, there is a level crossing on the eastern outskirts of Inverness. Police in hot pursuit of a criminal fleeing an act of criminality would, without a track safety certificate, be unable to progress across that level crossing on to the railway to pursue a criminal if amendment 6 were agreed to. In terms of a construct that is trying to give effect to the policy position that is being espoused, it does not work at a practical level.

I turn to amendment 4, in the name of Douglas Ross, which is the lead amendment in the group. My specific question is: who needs to have track safety training? In the past week, we have seen Police Scotland officers supplementing BTP officers, going on patrol on the concourse of Waverley station without track safety certificates. We can see the quite proper collaboration that currently takes place.

Who should determine what training particular constables require for particular tasks? I do not think that it is the duty of MSPs—or, for that matter, the duty of the minister—to determine that. It is an operational matter for the chief constable to determine.

It is entirely proper that the initial training of constables should refer to the duties that Police Scotland will exercise in relation to railway policing if the bill is passed, and constables should be familiar with the constraints on a constable’s proper actions.

The same applies to armed police. To be blunt, if a policeman who is not qualified to be an armed policeman is standing adjacent to an armed policeman who falls over and drops his gun, I am dubious as to whether that policeman should pick up the gun because they do not know about handling guns.

Only people who are properly trained should engage with the dangers that are specific to the environment of railway policing. However, amendment 4 comes to a very different conclusion.

Essentially, amendment 5 follows on from amendment 4. I have no particular objection to the provision of annual reports to ministers and Parliament about what is going on in the police force. If we are talking about information on a necessary part of training, that is all well and good.

However, with regard to the issue of limiting access to stations, it is clear that the amendments in the convener’s name simply do not serve the intended policy purpose. There appears to be an almost deliberate attempt to make it impossible for Police Scotland officers to continue to discharge the duties that they currently perform without any reported difficulties in relation to certain aspects of what is currently, and would be in future, defined as “railway property”.

John Finnie

I align myself with much of what Stewart Stevenson says about the implications for forensics if the amendments in this group are agreed to.

I highlight my specific police experience. As a police dog handler, I performed mountain search-and-rescue duties, during which I was conveyed in—indeed, winched into and out of—Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and civilian helicopters. In the course of those duties, I had to carry pyrotechnics, which brought their own issues. I conveyed my dog on a fixed-wing passenger service, occasionally in a motor launch, and in one instance on a skidoo. I had to deal with firearms, albeit that they were deactivated, as part of my training. I had a second dog for detecting explosives, and I had to handle a variety of explosives. Colleagues with drugs dogs had to deal with a variety of drugs. When I became a Scottish Police Federation official, I became aware of the role of vehicle examiners and the evolving nature of the issues that, when examining vehicles, we had to be aware of, such as the corrosive effect of brake fluid.

The point is that health and safety legislation applies to all those areas. The bill before us today is not about micromanaging the police, and the provisions in the amendments contain things that, to my mind, should not be in the bill. I therefore do not support the amendments.

Liam McArthur

Douglas Ross set out clearly a number of the explicit concerns that we heard in evidence at stage 1 about training for those accessing the railways and railway property. Those concerns were reflected in the committee’s report.

From Police Scotland, we heard assurances that a training assessment would be undertaken. We have no reason to doubt that, but to an extent it rather reinforces the point about the rushed nature of the bill. It even underpins some of my arguments for lodging certain amendments that appear in a later group.

Nevertheless, whether or not the specific amendments in this group deal with the precise concerns that the committee acknowledged and reflected in its stage 1 report—and I am interested to hear the minister’s response—I certainly support the idea of toughening up the language in the bill around training, which was a central concern throughout the evidence that we heard at stage 1.

Rona Mackay

I cannot add anything much to what Stewart Stevenson said, as he covered all the points. I agree with John Finnie that the provisions in the amendments are far too restrictive and specific; to be frank, they are unworkable. The provision of training is an operational policing matter. It is not the responsibility of the Government; it is the responsibility of the chief constable. For those reasons and others, I will not support the amendments.

Mary Fee

Liam McArthur has more than adequately expressed many of the sentiments that I was going to express. I am minded to support Douglas Ross’s amendments on training. It is worth remembering that in the stage 1 evidence we heard concerns regarding the loss and dilution of specialist skills among well-skilled professional railway staff. In addition, every rail union in the country is opposed to the bill.

When the RMT gave evidence, it warned that it might take industrial action if the bill were to go ahead, citing concerns about the safety of the workforce and the travelling public. It is worth reminding ourselves of that when we consider these amendments. If the bill goes ahead, it needs to be far more prescriptive and detailed about the minimum level of training required by officers policing the railway and the refresher training that they would need.

I share some of Stewart Stevenson’s concerns in relation to amendment 6 because of the use of the phrase “railway property”. If agreeing to that amendment would mean that an officer could not enter a railway station, for example, I would be unable to support it. However, I am happy to support the amendments on training.

Humza Yousaf

As members have said, all the amendments in this group seek to dictate to the chief constable of Police Scotland the nature and level of training that officers working in a specific area of operational policing should have. We are not aware of any precedent for Parliament prescribing requirements for the chief constable in that way, and the Scottish Government cannot support it. The chief constable is responsible for operational policing. His responsibilities include ensuring that officers across Police Scotland have the specialist training that they need to carry out their duties. That is kept under continual review to meet operational requirements.

Neither the Scottish Parliament nor the Scottish Government should seek to intervene in the business of operational policing by dictating a fixed set of training requirements for railway police officers. We do not prescribe what firearms or driving qualifications, or the many other qualifications listed by John Finnie, officers should have—such things are rightly operational policing matters—and we should not constrain specialist railway police in that way.

Furthermore, the Government’s view is that in lodging the two sets of amendments in the group, members have misunderstood the information that Police Scotland has provided to the committee on the different levels of railway policing training that it proposes to provide to officers in different parts of Police Scotland, which reflect different operational needs. Committee members can see for themselves, from the letter that Police Scotland sent last week in response to the committee’s stage 1 report, that it is not Police Scotland’s intention to provide all its 17,000-plus officers with a personal track safety certificate. The certificate will be for officers who work within the railway policing specialism, and the number will be similar to the number of certificates currently provided to BTP officers in Scotland. If members choose to press the amendments, they will be seeking to override the professional view of Police Scotland.

Police Scotland’s recent letter also makes it clear that it has clear operating procedures—they are currently under review, which is being done in conjunction with the BTP—which state that its police officers should not go on to the tracks when they attend an incident that is related to the railway. Should there be a requirement to go on to the tracks, a nationally agreed process demands that a competent and trained member of the rail industry is present at the scene to advise. As has been mentioned, Police Scotland is currently working with the BTP on a training needs analysis and we should allow that work to continue.

If amendment 4, from Douglas Ross, were to be agreed to, we would be faced with the substantial cost of providing personal track safety certificates to around 17,000 officers who would not have an operational requirement for one. If amendments 6 and 7, from Margaret Mitchell, were to be agreed to, a police officer who did not have that certificate would be unable to exercise the power of entry to railway property, as Stewart Stevenson mentioned, even if that was to access an area nowhere near the track—for example, a locked station building, a railway station or a train. We would be in the ludicrous situation in which committee members and I could go into a station or get on to a train, but a police constable who did not have the certificate could not. I am sure that no one would want us to be in that position.

Although amendment 5 is dependent on amendment 4, I cannot support it on its own terms. Amendment 5 would require separate training plans and costs to be published. The bill already places a statutory requirement on the Scottish Police Authority to engage with the railway industry and others on service, performance and costs. The SPA will, of course, be accountable to this Parliament for that engagement, as it is for other matters. The committee already has the power to scrutinise and question the annual reports and accounts that are laid by the SPA, and it has the option to seek further details from Police Scotland on training and the costs of railway policing at any time.

The Scottish Government strongly opposes these amendments, which would impinge on the role of the chief constable in determining the training that is required to support operational policing. I therefore ask Douglas Ross and Margaret Mitchell not to press their amendments. If the amendments are pressed, I ask the committee to reject them.

12:30  



Douglas Ross

I thank all members for their contributions from different sides of the debate on these amendments. Stewart Stevenson went to great lengths to describe the potential effects of my amendments and, indeed, the convener’s amendments. I now feel that I should belatedly declare an interest because, based on what Stewart Stevenson said, my wife, as a police sergeant, may not be able to cycle into Elgin train station or get on to a train at Elgin to go anywhere else.

I accept that there has been some criticism of the reference to “entering a railway property” but I do not believe that that should take away from the general emphasis that we are trying to include with the amendments, which is that the bill must contain more detail and require more scrutiny on training.

If I decide to press my amendments and they are agreed to, I give a full assurance that, at stage 3, I would like to redefine the element of “railway property” to ensure that we do not end up with what would be the rather ludicrous situation in which my wife and 17,233 other officers could not board a train anywhere in Scotland.

I also noted Mr Stevenson’s question about who should determine the training requirements. He does not want that to be done by politicians, but I think that it is important that, as politicians and as members of the committee, we voice opinions and views that were shared by British Transport Police officers, the British Transport Police Authority, rail users, unions and rail operators, all of whom had significant concerns about a lack of detail on training in the bill and the response from the Scottish Government. We can give voice to those concerns.

Stewart Stevenson

What Douglas Ross is saying is reasonably constructive in the context of the debate that we have had. I will not step back from being interested in training; like all members, I will continue to be interested in training. I think that the sole area of difference relates to who should be responsible for setting the training—that is the top, bottom and middle of it. However, we can make common cause by continuing to take an interest in training and by holding the chief constable and the minister to account for the adequacy of any training.

Douglas Ross

I appreciate Stewart Stevenson’s remarks.

I will briefly comment on some of the other contributions. Liam McArthur was right to mention that, when we scrutinised the bill at stage 1, training was a central concern for the committee and for our witnesses. Mary Fee was correct to highlight the unions’ concerns—indeed, Michael Hogg said that some of them would be prepared to take industrial action. We need much more detail, not just for the safety of our officers, which is paramount, but for the safety of all rail users.

I was pleased to get the support of Mr Stevenson for amendment 5 and disappointed that, for some reason, the minister was not quite so supportive.

I began by quoting the RMT, the BTP and rail operators. I think that it would be correct to finish with a quotation from the Scottish Police Federation. Calum Steele told the committee:

“I do not consider it feasible—I find it incomprehensible—that the service, be it the BTP in its current state, a hybrid or a transport service within the Police Service of Scotland, would put a police officer out to work on a railway line without their having the appropriate track safety requirements. The old adage ‘If you think health and safety is expensive, try an accident’ would come bearing down on them at a hell of a rate of knots—and I would be at the front of the queue knocking lumps out of them for even suggesting it should be done that way.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 42.]

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member take a further intervention?

Douglas Ross

No—I want to finish.

Stewart Stevenson

It is just a tiny point.

Douglas Ross

I would hope that, in considering all the responses that the committee has received, and indeed that final quotation from the SPF, we would treat training as an imperative part of the bill, as Stewart Stevenson said.

I press amendment 4.

The Convener

The question is, that amendment 4 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Convener

There will be a division.

For

Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Against

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Convener

The result of the division is: For 5, Against 6, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 4 disagreed to.

Amendment 5 moved—[Douglas Ross].

The Convener

The question is, that amendment 5 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Convener

There will be a division.

For

Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Against

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Convener

The result of the division is: For 5, Against 6, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 5 disagreed to.

Section 3—Power of entry in respect of railway property

Amendment 6 moved—[Margaret Mitchell].

The Convener

The question is, that amendment 6 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Convener

There will be a division.

For

Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Against

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Convener

The result of the division is: For 4, Against 7, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 6 disagreed to.

Amendments 7 and 8 not moved.

Section 3 agreed to.

Section 4 agreed to.

Section 5—British Transport Police Force functions

Amendment 9 not moved.

Section 5 agreed to.

After section 5

The Convener

Amendment 2, in the name of John Finnie, is in a group on its own.

John Finnie

The purpose of the amendment is to put on a statutory footing the assurances that were offered verbally by Assistant Chief Constable Higgins that any BTP officer who transferred into Police Scotland would continue to work on railway policing duties unless they agreed to move. It does that by providing a protection to officers that is modelled on the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 protection for officers who transferred from the territorial forces into Police Scotland and, indeed, legislation that applied long before that with all previous amalgamations.

The previous arrangements set out that an officer must not be assigned to duties that would require them to move away from the geographical area of their former force unless they consent to do that. The restriction in the amendment relates to railway policing rather than geographic location. That would facilitate officers who serve within the BTP at the moment moving from one area to another but remaining within railway policing. That would provide a greater level of assurance to officers who wish to continue their careers in railway policing and place Police Scotland’s statement of intent on a statutory footing.

I move amendment 2.

Liam McArthur

I thank John Finnie for lodging amendment 2. Given the debate that we had on an earlier grouping, I am minded to recall the minister’s statement that the Parliament and the Government should not seek to intervene in the chief constable’s discretion or decision making. John Finnie has set out a fairly reasonable argument for how that discretion and decision making should, to some extent, be circumscribed. For the reasons that he sets out, the amendment reflects the concerns that we heard during stage 1. It is a pragmatic and proportionate way of addressing them and, therefore, I support it.

Stewart Stevenson

I want to raise a wee technical point about the drafting of John Finnie’s proposed new subsection (3); I suspect that it will be for the minister to comment on it.

I want to be absolutely clear that a constable of the British Transport Police who is engaged in duties outwith that police service would be treated as being a constable of the Police Service of Scotland operating on service outside the BTP at the point of transfer. It would be useful to get that on the record to ensure that there is no ambiguity. I agonised over that point and concluded that it was okay, but I seek clarification. John Finnie may want to respond first.

John Finnie

The intention is not to disadvantage anyone. Officers are afforded protection—section 19 of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 is well known to afford that protection—albeit that they may temporarily be seconded elsewhere.

Stewart Stevenson

I absolutely support what is proposed. I am simply making a tiny, narrow, technical point to ensure that the intention is on the record. As I said, it is probably for the minister to answer my question.

Mary Fee

I am happy to support the amendment. As John Finnie and Liam McArthur said, it will provide assurance in response to the concerns that we heard in evidence from those BTP staff who will transfer over. The amendment would clearly set out in legislation a firm indication of intent that officers will be allowed to stay in the BTP if they so wish. That is a sensible way forward.

Humza Yousaf

The amendment is a very constructive contribution, and I thank John Finnie for lodging it.

ACC Higgins of Police Scotland gave the committee assurances that Police Scotland will respect the right of any member of the BTP who transfers to police the railway environment for the remainder of their career and that they will not be moved elsewhere unless they volunteer to do so. In response to concerns that railway police officers could be diverted to other duties following integration, ACC Higgins gave a clear assurance that they would not be diverted, with the obvious exception of a crisis situation.

I am conscious that those assurances have not yet persuaded all those who have concerns on either front. In the stage 1 debate, some members queried whether BTP officers would be deployed to non-railway duties. John Finnie’s amendment clearly sets out the position beyond any doubt and provides a statutory guarantee that any constable who transfers from the BTP to Police Scotland will be able to continue their career in railway policing if they wish to do so.

Liam McArthur

Will the minister take an intervention on that point?

Humza Yousaf

Yes.

Liam McArthur

As I said earlier, I fully support what the minister has described as a constructive approach to an issue that was raised with the committee. The minister has—fairly, I think—quoted ACC Higgins, who offered similar assurances in response to the concerns that BTP officers expressed. Nonetheless, those assurances could be seen as enabling the Parliament and the Government to establish criteria for the operational freedom and decisions that are taken by the chief constable and senior officers in Police Scotland. How is that different from the concerns that Douglas Ross raised in relation to his amendments on training provision?

Humza Yousaf

It is different in a couple of ways. If Liam McArthur does not mind, I will quote directly from the remarks that he made a moment ago. He said that the amendment strikes the right balance in being both “pragmatic and proportionate”, and I agree with him on that.

The most important part of John Finnie’s amendment is the proposed new subsection (2)(b), which states:

“A constable to whom this subsection applies ...

(b) must not be assigned duties that do not so relate unless it is necessary to meet a special demand on resources for policing.”

That brings me back to my point about a crisis situation. The provision allows the chief constable flexibility while, as Liam McArthur said, striking the right balance in being both “pragmatic and proportionate”. The amendment gives statutory force to the guarantee that officers who transfer will not be diverted to other duties while ensuring that flexibility exists for the chief constable.

On Stewart Stevenson’s point, I concur with John Finnie’s response that the intention is to ensure appropriate protection for anyone who is on secondment at the time of transfer. It is helpful to put that on the record.

I strongly welcome the amendment. I am grateful to John Finnie for seeking to provide a greater level of reassurance to BTP officers who transfer to Police Scotland that they will have every opportunity to continue their career within railway policing. In turn, I believe that the amendment will help to secure the objective of ensuring that the expertise of BTP officers is retained within railway policing on integration with Police Scotland.

The Scottish Government supports the amendment and I ask the committee to support it, too.

12:45  



John Finnie

I am grateful to those members who have spoken in the debate. The important thing is that the bill is entirely consistent with previous legislation relating to the amalgamations that took place in 1975. I also mentioned the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. The position is consistent across the various decades.

I press amendment 2.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

Section 6 agreed to.

Section 7—Commencement

The Convener

Amendment 10, in the name of Liam McArthur, is grouped with amendments 11 to 13.

Liam McArthur

As with the earlier grouping, the amendments to section 7 reflect concerns that I set out during the stage 1 debate. Throughout the evidence that we heard earlier in the year, we heard concerns about the impact that the bill is likely to have on BTP officers and staff, on the availability of specialist expertise around the policing of our railways and even on the ability of the railway operators to provide a safe and efficient service to the travelling public.

However, we also heard concerns about the ability of Police Scotland to accommodate yet more structural change at this time. It is an organisation that has not had its problems to seek over recent years. Audit Scotland has highlighted serious shortcomings in financial management in Police Scotland, and many of the savings and efficiencies that were promised by ministers at the time of centralisation have not materialised. Even if the policing 2026 strategy finally enables Police Scotland to emerge from a period that has taken its toll on the morale of officers and staff, I ask why we are adding to the challenges that they are being asked to contend with by layering on further structural upheaval.

If the Government is intent on pressing ahead and it secures the backing of Parliament to do so, I believe that there is a strong case for delaying the implementation of the bill’s provisions. My amendment 10 proposes a delay of 10 years, which would safeguard the interests of BTP employees and allow more time for changes to be made that would enable the transfer in due course to be managed smoothly and with less disruption.

I accept that 10 years is an arbitrary figure and I am open to suggestions about what might constitute a more appropriate timeframe for implementation, but I firmly believe that it is in the interests of policing in Scotland, both on our railways and more widely, for ministers to row back from the headlong rush to dismantle the BTP. More time would at least allow the ground to be better prepared, even if the direction of travel remains the same.

I move amendment 10.

The Convener

I call Douglas Ross to speak to amendment 12 and to other amendments in the group.

Douglas Ross

I have mentioned some of these points already. I go back to the quote that Stewart Stevenson mentioned earlier: training is important to the committee. It is also important for the bill process that we get up front information on the costs of training, that that is laid before the Parliament, and that it shows that all constables and police cadets have received the necessary training to police the railways and railway property. That may be different now that my earlier amendment failed, but it is still important that we get information on the training of police officers and cadets and on where the funding for that will come from.

Stewart Stevenson

Liam McArthur talked about a headlong rush. I am not sure that I recognise that in the context of the date of 1 April 2027. In broad terms, if one is going to set a date that far in the future it might be more appropriate to say something like “no sooner than”, but that is a minor and picky point.

The real point comes in amendment 11, which gets it fundamentally and absolutely wrong. The future of the bill lies on only two hands. The responsibility for what we are doing must lie, first, with the chief constable, who has to be sure and give us confidence that he is prepared to pick up the responsibilities that the bill, if it is passed by the Parliament, will give him. Secondly, it is for us to take responsibility for how we vote at stage 3, at the end of the bill’s parliamentary process. Amendment 11 contains a long list of bodies and people who would have no responsibility for the consequences of any decisions that they might choose to make. It would be entirely inappropriate to hand a veto over the policing of railways to people who have no responsibility for carrying it forward. On that basis, I cannot support amendment 11.

My real problem with Douglas Ross’s amendment 12 is simply the use of the word “all” in proposed new section 7(2B)(a), which uses the wording

“all constables and police cadets”.

This comes back to a point that I have made before. The training of constables and indeed police cadets is a matter for the chief constable, who must ensure that the training that all constables and police cadets receive is consistent with the duties to which they will be assigned. The reason why I cannot support amendment 12 is as simple as that.

John Finnie

I shall not support the amendments in this group either. I point out that an important category is missing from proposed new section 7(2B)(a), namely, that of police support staff who play the valuable role of scene of crime examiner, so there is a deficiency in amendment 12 anyway.

The Convener

I call on the minister to respond.

Humza Yousaf

The committee has been asked to consider a complex set of competing amendments. I am grateful to Liam McArthur for his explanation of what he is looking to achieve with his amendments. However, the Scottish Government is unable to support the amendments in the group. In my remarks, I will concentrate on Liam McArthur’s amendment 11 and Douglas Ross’s amendment 12 as they raise the most important points, although I will also say something about timescales in response to Liam McArthur’s amendment 10.

I have welcomed the Justice Committee’s stage 1 report on the bill. It makes a number of constructive suggestions and we have responded positively to those. The committee has also heard from many members of the joint programme board—the BTP, the BTP Authority, Police Scotland, the SPA and the UK Government’s Department for Transport—about the detailed programme of implementation that is already under way and is being delivered through effective partnership working. The passage of the bill will enable that work to move on to vital areas such as secondary legislation in order to deliver on our commitment to BTP officers and staff on their jobs, pay and pensions. It will also encompass detailed work on operational integration, led jointly by Police Scotland and the BTP, including the arrangements for training, which Douglas Ross focuses on in his amendment.

The committee has, rightly, shown great interest in the work of the joint programme board and a desire to scrutinise the wide range of preparations over the coming period, ahead of the integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland by the target date of 1 April 2019. The committee has asked for six-monthly progress reports on the joint programme board’s work. As I have said, I am happy to accept that recommendation and will ensure that the Scottish Government provides those reports on behalf of the board. They will enable the committee to assess progress across the full range of the board’s work and to consider evidence of how the recommendations are being followed through, including the recommendation that the board should broaden its engagement to include the railway industry and other key interests during the work that is ahead of it.

Liam McArthur’s amendment 11 and Douglas Ross’s amendment 12 go further than what is envisaged in the committee’s stage 1 report and seek to include a statutory requirement for other reports in addition to that. In the case of Douglas Ross’s amendment 12, that would focus primarily on training. Progress reports from the joint programme board will, of course, provide the committee with much more than that.

The board’s progress reports will also provide regular updates on readiness for integration. Liam McArthur’s amendment 11 would create an additional hurdle whereby, as Stewart Stevenson said, a large number of different bodies would all have, in effect, a right of veto before integration could proceed. Liam McArthur will not be surprised to hear that I cannot support that proposal. Although the Scottish Government will engage closely with a range of interests in considering the timing of commencement, we believe that the Government must retain the responsibility for that decision. In taking that responsibility, the Government will, of course, be accountable to Parliament for the decisions that we make.

Liam McArthur will also be unsurprised to hear that I am unable to support his amendment to delay commencement of the provisions of the bill until 2027, because it would mean that we would have very limited say about how railway policing in Scotland would be delivered in the meantime.

Of course, we know that if the Conservatives are returned to power in Westminster, railway policing would no longer be delivered by the BTP as it currently exists. The amendment would mean that we would lose out on the benefits of integrated policing across Scotland’s transport infrastructure for the lifetime of two parliamentary sessions.

I ask Liam McArthur and Douglas Ross not to press their amendments; if they press them, I ask the committee to reject them.

Liam McArthur

I will start with an apology to Douglas Ross for not acknowledging his amendment 12 in my earlier remarks. As with his earlier amendments, I support its emphasis on the importance of training.

In relation to Stewart Stevenson’s comments—I thank him again for those—when I referred to a “headlong rush”, I was not of course levelling a criticism at myself. As he rightly says, in putting the date back to 1 April 2027, I could not be accused of anything like a headlong rush.

I think that it is fair to say that the Smith commission recommendations came somewhat out of left field for the BTP, and the distance that we have travelled between that report and this bill being introduced is no great distance at all. Therefore, I think that as far as many in the BTP are concerned, there has been a headlong rush, particularly given the absence of other options being consulted upon. However, I take Stewart Stevenson’s point that “no sooner than” would perhaps have been more felicitous language. I will certainly bear that in mind.

I thank John Finnie for his comments, although I think that they were directed more at Douglas Ross’s amendment than at mine. I acknowledge that he does not support my amendments. I also acknowledge, belatedly, Rona Mackay, who let the cat out of the bag about her views on my amendments in this group in responding to the earlier group, but I thank her for her comments.

The minister is right to point to the partnership working. We had a good evidence session with a representative of the JPB and I think that he very much reinforced what the minister has said.

The proposal to merge the BTP with Police Scotland was not at the request of Police Scotland. Had we offered Police Scotland more time, I am not entirely sure that it would have cast that back up in our faces, given the challenges that it has to take on board. To give credit to Police Scotland, it tried to offer the committee reassurances where it could. Nevertheless, I think that the structural upheaval that this will involve, over and above the challenges that Police Scotland already has on its plate, should not be underestimated.

A lot of the evidence that we heard around the concerns that BTP officers and staff have about the maintenance of their terms and conditions will make it very difficult to provide reassurance on that side while at the same time going through a difficult process with Police Scotland officers and staff in the context of the policing 2026 strategy, in that the more that is given in one area, the more difficult it will be to provide reassurance in the other.

John Finnie

I am grateful to the member for giving way. Does the member accept that ACC Higgins described the BTP timeframe as a “luxury” compared with the amalgamation into a single force?

Liam McArthur

I am grateful for John Finnie’s comment, although I think that ACC Higgins’s reference to the timeframe being a “luxury” only serves to underscore the other difficulties that ACC Higgins and his colleagues are trying to grapple with. I would not necessarily suggest that, by any stretch of the imagination, it reflected enthusiasm on his part that the workload that they are trying to deal with in relation to this structural change is particularly welcome.

On that basis, I press amendment 10.

The Convener

The question is, that amendment 10 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Convener

There will be a division.

For

Ross, Douglas (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

Against

Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Convener

The result of the division is: For 5, Against 6, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10 disagreed to.

Amendments 11 to 13 not moved.

Section 7 agreed to.

Section 8 agreed to.

Long Title

Amendment 14 not moved.

Long title agreed to.

The Convener

That ends stage 2 consideration of the bill. I thank the minister and his officials for attending. We were trying to get through all the amendments today, rather than having to call him back to the committee.

Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill with Stage 2 changes

Additional related information from the Scottish Government on the Bill

More information on the powers the Scottish Parliament is giving Scottish Ministers to make secondary legislation related to this Bill (Supplementary Delegated Powers Memorandum)

Stage 3 - Final changes and vote

MSPs can propose further changes to the Bill and then vote on each of these. Finally, they vote on whether the Bill should become law

Debate on the proposed changes

MSPs get the chance to present their proposed changes to the Chamber. They vote on whether each change should be added to the Bill.

Documents with the changes considered at this meeting:

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

Debate on proposed changes transcript

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendments, members should have the bill as amended at stage 2—that is, Scottish Parliament bill 2A; the marshalled list and the supplement to the marshalled list; and the list of groupings.

I advise members that, although the supplement to the marshalled list states that amendments 8 and 9 will be called immediately after amendment 4, that is not the case. Amendment 8 will be called immediately after amendment 3, and amendment 9 will be called immediately after amendment 4. Now, did everybody get that? [Laughter.] It is all right—I will keep you right.

The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. The period of voting for the first division will be 30 seconds. Thereafter, I will allow a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate. Members who wish to speak in the debate on a group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible after I call the group. Members should now refer to the marshalled list of amendments.

Section 1—Provision for policing of railways and railway property

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Group 1 is on engagement with trade unions. Amendment 1, in the name of Neil Bibby, is grouped with amendments 3, 8, 4 and 9.

Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

I declare an interest as a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers parliamentary group.

Members will recall that Scottish Labour voted against the general principles of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill at stage 1. We have consistently opposed the integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland, and our position has not changed. The purpose of my amendments in the group is to ensure that, if the bill is passed later today, there will be proper engagement and consultation with trade unions.

The absence of trade unions from the bill is a glaring omission, and my amendments address that. Amendment 1 adds “relevant trade unions” to the list of bodies that will be involved in the membership of the railway policing management forum. The forum should not just be made up of rail operators. It should be a place where the interests of workers are represented.

Amendments 3 and 4 amend section 1 to ensure that there is engagement between the relevant trade unions and the Scottish Police Authority. The bill already requires the SPA to obtain the views of interested parties. Trade unions must be counted as interested parties along with the rail operators, passengers and the other persons and bodies that are identified in the bill.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands has lodged manuscript amendments in the group that relate to section 1. I agree with his amendments in principle, but I know that trade unions have some concerns about the way in which amendment 9 is drafted. It would allow the Scottish Police Authority to judge what the relevant trade unions would be, but we do not know the criteria on which that judgment would be made.

I therefore seek an assurance from the minister that trade unions that organise in the rail sector—the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen and the RMT—along with police staff organisations will be included in the scope of his amendment, before I make a decision on whether to move my amendment 4.

We believe that transport unions must be included in the development of any new railway policing agreement in Scotland, that they must be represented at the railway policing management forum and that their views must be obtained as appropriate alongside those of other interested persons and bodies. My amendments in the group would achieve that.

I move amendment 1.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf)

I am grateful to Neil Bibby for raising the issue of engagement with trade unions in railway policing matters through amendments 1, 3 and 4. Unions that represent railway employees of Network Rail or train operating companies clearly have a significant interest in railway policing, and indeed often rely on it for their own safety and security in their places of work. As I have made clear on several occasions, our key priority is to maintain and indeed to enhance the high standards of safety and security for railway users and staff in Scotland.

I am supportive of the aims of amendments 1, 3 and 4 to provide unions that represent railway staff with additional reassurances in the bill that their interests will be directly represented in mechanisms for engagement as set out in the bill. Engagement with trade unions is already covered in the bill as it stands, but I recognise the value of making that explicit in the bill as a more direct recognition of their significant interest. At the same time, we should also explicitly recognise the interests of the trade unions that represent police staff and the organisations that represent police officers, given that officers are not represented by traditional trade unions.

Amendment 4 defines the “relevant trade unions” for the purposes of amendments 1 and 3, but it does so in a way that would not cover bodies representing constables, who cannot be represented by trade unions—or by police staff. Although I am supportive of the principle behind amendment 4, I have had a brief discussion with Neil Bibby about the issue and have proposed an alternative approach in amendments 8 and 9. My amendments put beyond any doubt the fact that the representative groups that the Scottish Police Authority must consult with include trade unions that represent railway operator employees, such as the RMT and ASLEF, as well as organisations that represent police officers and unions such as the TSSA, which represents the BTP staff.

The Scottish Government supports amendments 1 and 3 and I ask Parliament to support them, too. I also ask Neil Bibby not to move amendment 4. I am happy to give him the assurance that he sought. As I explained, the working of amendment 4 excludes unions that represent police staff, such as the TSSA, and police officers’ representative organisations. The Scottish Government’s amendments 8 and 9 address that issue and will broaden out union engagement and ensure that the intentions in amendments 1, 3 and 4 are met. I therefore ask Parliament to support amendments 8 and 9 in my name.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

A few members wish to speak on this group, so please be succinct.

Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

Amendment 1, in Neil Bibby’s name, seeks to ensure that trade unions join railway operators as members of a railway policing management forum to be established under the bill. Amendments 3 and 4 also seek to ensure that unions are consulted more generally on the policing of railways and railway property. They define “relevant trade unions” for the purposes of the bill.

My understanding is that manuscript amendments 8 and 9, which were lodged by the minister, Humza Yousaf, seek to clarify an error in amendments 3 and 4. Neil Bibby refers to engagement with “relevant trade unions”, but his amendments would not allow for the inclusion of the Scottish Police Federation, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents and senior police officers’ staff associations. It is important that the views of such organisations on railway policing in Scotland are taken into account. The Scottish Conservatives will therefore support amendments 8 and 9.

The unions and the railway staff associations have made important contributions to the scrutiny of the bill. The points that they raised were valid and should have been taken on board by the Scottish Government. Sadly, the Scottish Government has remained totally intransigent, merely brushing aside concerns during the scrutiny process. In view of what any reasonable person would consider to be a totally unacceptable stance from the Scottish Government, it is not just right but absolutely essential that extraordinary provision is included in the bill to ensure that railway operators and the relevant trade unions are members of the policing management forum.

I therefore confirm that the Scottish Conservatives will support amendments 1, 8 and 9.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

As far as British Transport Police officers and staff, unions and the wider railway industry are concerned, the speed with which the Government has brought forward the bill has come as a major surprise. While discussions have been taking place since the bill was introduced, that has not made up for the lack of prior engagement with those who are most directly involved in and have the greatest understanding of the issues.

The fact that Scottish National Party ministers chose to consult on a single option—the dismantling of the BTP and merging it into Police Scotland—has only compounded the unease and, indeed, the anger felt. It is undoubtedly late in the day, but the amendments from Neil Bibby go some way in trying at least to redress the balance, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats will support them.

I accept the rationale behind the minister’s amendments. Although they do not address the bill’s fundamental shortcomings, they at least represent improvements to it. On that basis, we will support amendments 8 and 9.

We will support all the amendments, if they are all moved.

Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

I rise to speak in support of amendments 1, 3 and 4, in the name of Neil Bibby. The amendments are important because they would place trade unions on the face of the bill. In its present form, the bill makes no mention at all of the rail unions or collective bargaining. The amendments would require the membership of the proposed railway policing management forum to be expanded to include the rail unions. They would also add trade unions to the list of interested “persons and bodies” to be consulted by the Scottish Police Authority.

The amendments recognise the importance of consulting trade unions on the way forward for railway policing, so they have my support.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I, too, declare an interest as a member of the RMT parliamentary group.

Neil Bibby and the minister have mentioned what has been omitted from the bill and what should be explicitly mentioned in it. Neil Bibby rightly talked about safety in that regard.

The Greens will support amendments 1, 3 and 4, and we will listen to what Mr Bibby says about accepting the Government’s amendments.

If the bill is passed, it is important that the trade unions and staff associations are involved right from the beginning in the railway policing management forum. I take a different view from that of Margaret Mitchell: that involvement should not be an extraordinary position, but the default position if we are to have a positive workforce.

We will support the amendments, not least because of the need for those bodies to be engaged on the safety issue, which has been a recurring theme throughout the debate on railway policing.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

I rise to support Neil Bibby’s amendments 1 and 3 and the minister’s amendments 8 and 9.

Like the minister, I support in principle Neil Bibby’s amendment 4, but the drafting of the Government’s amendments 8 and 9 is more inclusive and comprehensive in broadening engagement and the representation of officers, especially given the inclusion of the Police Federation for Scotland in amendment 8 and of police staff in amendment 9. The explicit recognition of trade unions’ place on the railway policing management forum and the engagement of railway users and other interested persons have my support. I encourage others to support those amendments, too.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Neil Bibby to wind up, and to press or withdraw amendment 1.

Neil Bibby

As I have said, there is no requirement in the bill for trade unions or staff associations in the rail sector to be consulted. The purpose of the amendments in group 1 is to address that situation. Therefore, I will press amendments 1 and 3 in my name.

I have listened to what the minister has had to say and I am happy to support amendments 8 and 9 and to not move amendment 4, on the understanding that the effect of amendments 8 and 9 will be to require the Scottish Police Authority to consult the relevant trade unions. I hope that the chamber will support that position today.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Group 2 is on training in relation to the policing of railways and railway property. Amendment 2, in the name of Neil Bibby, is grouped with amendment 5.

16:00  



Neil Bibby

The amendments in this group concern training in relation to the policing of railways and railway property. Amendment 2 requires that any agreement reached under section 85K(1)

“include arrangements for constables, who are assigned duties that relate to the policing of railways and railway property, to have completed personal track safety training.”

The purpose is not to put constraints on constables, but to ensure that skilled railway policing specialism is predicted.

Amendment 5 requires the chief constable to ensure that any

“constables assigned duties that relate to the policing of railways or railway property”

have to undergo “the necessary training.” That should include personal track safety training.

The approach in amendments 2 and 5 refines that of the similar amendments that the Justice Committee considered at stage 2. The purpose is not to place constraints on constables or interfere with operational matters but to guarantee that railway policing skills are protected. We cannot do that without amending the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

Amendment 5 would require the Scottish Government to make regulations setting out the level of training required. Throughout the bill process, major concerns have been raised about the level of training that would be provided to police officers who police the railways and about the dilution of the specialism of railway policing, but the bill makes no mention of training. My amendments seek to address that.

There is also a lack of clarity about the cost of new training requirements and the numbers involved. Currently there are 200 transport police officers in D division who have personal track safety certificates. There are more than 17,000 police officers in Police Scotland, so there would be significant cost implications if they were all required to undergo personal track safety training, although Police Scotland seems to have suggested that that will happen.

Police Scotland gave an undertaking to the Justice Committee to return at stage 2 with details of its training needs analysis and details on cost. We do not consider that the information that was eventually provided is detailed; it does not properly address needs or cost. Amendments 2 and 5 provide that the Government would make regulations setting out the level of training required. There would be transparency for the public, for the police and for the rail operators, who might ultimately have to meet training costs through the railway policing agreements.

I move amendment 2.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

People might have noticed a buzzing in the background in the chamber. I am afraid that nothing can be done about it. There are a lot of puzzled looks; ah, I see that members who had not noticed it are noticing it now. [Laughter.] We must just persevere. I ask speakers to speak a little louder, as some folk are finding it quite hard to hear.

Margaret Mitchell

Amendments 2 and 5 are similar to the ones that Douglas Ross and I lodged at stage 2 but pick up on criticism at stage 2 and seek to clarify when the requirement for a personal track safety certificate will apply. Amendment 2 clearly provides that that will be when police constables are assigned duties that relate to the policing of railways. Amendment 5 includes trade unions among the bodies that must be consulted in relation to personal track safety training.

At stage 1, the British Transport Police Federation told the committee:

“Every officer in Police Scotland who intends to police the railway—or go anywhere near the railway—will have to have the personal track safety certificate.”

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers agreed and said:

“Police Scotland would not have access to our railways if there was a derailment or a collision or any trespass on a railway. If Police Scotland officers do not have a PTS certificate, they cannot go on or near the running line.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 40, 59.]

The rail operators all agreed with those statements. It would therefore be irresponsible not to address training adequately by ensuring that the necessary provisions in relation to PTS certificates are included in the bill. Amendments 2 and 5 achieve that objective; the Scottish Conservatives will therefore support them.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Mr Bibby’s amendments 2 and 5 are a modest improvement on the amendments that were considered at stage 2, in that they would apply only to

“constables, who are assigned duties that relate to the policing of railways and railway property”,

whereas the previous amendments covered all police officers.

However, let us consider what the amendments mean, because there are difficulties with how they are constructed. Via the addition of proposed new section 85M(1) of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, there is a definition of “railway property”, which includes “a station” and

“a train used on a network”.

Proposed new section 85M(3) cross-refers to section 83 of the Railways Act 1993, which says:

“‘station’ means any land or other property which consists of premises used as, or for the purposes of, or otherwise in connection with, a railway passenger station or railway passenger terminal (including any approaches, forecourt, cycle store or car park), whether or not the land or other property is, or the premises are, also used for other purposes”.

The bottom line is that the areas to which the amendment would apply—trains on the network and stations—are very extensive indeed.

Therein lies the genuine difficulty. Amendment 2, of course, relates to police

“who are assigned duties that relate to the policing of railways and railway property”,

so let us consider a practical issue. With the heightened security situation that we had, Police Scotland armed police were deployed on the concourse at Waverley station. I was not at other stations; I dare say that armed police were. That falls within the definition in amendment 2. Under that amendment, it would not be possible for those Police Scotland armed officers to be deployed at Waverley station and other stations unless they had personal track safety certificates.

I accept 100 per cent that, if an officer is going on the track and is close to operational trains, there are particular issues but that is not what amendment 2 actually relates to. Under the amendment, we are saying that constables who are deployed to an urgent shout cannot be deployed to station car parks, booking offices or even waiting rooms without special training. Those are areas that I, without any special training, am allowed to access at any time, as any other member of the public is.

Pauline McNeill (Glasgow) (Lab)

Will Stewart Stevenson give way?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I am sorry, the member is just closing.

Stewart Stevenson

There is also the overall point that, to be blunt, training is a matter for the chief constable. He or she will know how the police network has to operate and must make the appropriate decisions. We shall not second-guess what we need now or in future.

John Finnie

I absolutely understand that concerns about safety prompt amendments 2 and 5. However, I wonder whether training provision should be in any bill, to be honest.

The railway industry is rightly a heavily regulated industry. Mr Stevenson rightly highlights one of the difficulties with amendment 2. I was going to cite a similar situation in Inverness, whereby the armed police who were deployed on the concourse of the station could not have been deployed there under the amendment. We need to draw a clear distinction between deployments to property and the very significant concerns about track-side deployment.

Health and safety is an important role for trade unions and staff associations. I assure members absolutely that my former colleagues in the Scottish Police Federation will be vigilant on the issue. The matter is a deployment issue and an operational one. I absolutely support the highest standards of safety but we do not need this in the bill.

Stewart Stevenson

Presiding Officer, forgive me, can I make a declaration before we move on?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Excuse me, Mr Stevenson?

Stewart Stevenson

I have a declaration of interests that I forgot to make.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I will bring you in at the end of this group if you feel obliged to do so.

Mary Fee

I raised concerns earlier about the omission of trade unions from the bill and I will also raise concerns about the omission of training.

In its stage 1 report, the Justice Committee stated clearly:

“There are areas of the railways that police officers should not enter without a Personal Track Safety Certificate.”

It was a specific recommendation of the committee that Police Scotland should provide more information about the consequent costs of training. Police Scotland provided an update that was so generic in nature that it has not satisfied me or many others that there is sufficient clarity about the bill’s implications for officer training. Amendments 2 and 5 seek to provide a greater level of clarity and transparency and, crucially, would ensure that constables who are assigned duties to police railways and railway property are properly trained. For that reason, I will vote to support them.

Mike Rumbles

Throughout Parliament’s consideration of the bill, questions have been raised about how the expertise within the British Transport Police can be maintained and safeguarded. The minister and Police Scotland have made bold promises about how the bill will help to expand massively the capacity of officers with expertise in railway policing. In truth, it is hard to see how the figures stack up on that and I welcome the fact that Neil Bibby is pressing the issue, as I welcomed its being pressed at stage 2.

I am not convinced by Stewart Stevenson’s contribution. It was a red herring. The police officers are to be assigned duties and, if they are to be assigned duties to the locations mentioned, they need to be properly trained.

Neil Bibby’s amendments 2 and 5 appear to address concerns that were raised about similar amendments that were lodged at stage 2. On that basis, although I will listen to what the minister has to say, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are inclined to support the changes proposed in the amendments.

Pauline McNeill

I wish to press this point. I wanted to clarify what Stewart Stevenson was saying. Listening to the debate so far, I have understood him to be saying that any police officer who has a firearm and does not have a training certificate could not attend. I have to ask the question: what happens just now? It is being suggested that there is a deficiency.

Stewart Stevenson

Would the member take a brief intervention?

Pauline McNeill

Members listening to the debate who will be voting against the bill this evening, as I will be, note the concern that, in a complete integration of the system, we must ensure that the police officers who are assigned to transport duties are appropriate. That is a big concern among many members when it comes to voting for the bill this evening.

If Mr Stevenson is correct, if those police officers cannot attend, that suggests that there is a deficiency at the moment.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Are you finished, Ms McNeill, or are you allowing an intervention?

Pauline McNeill

I will allow an intervention from Stewart Stevenson if he wants to clarify that point.

Stewart Stevenson

It is a very technical point. It is just that the definition of a station includes areas where Police Scotland should have free access without track certificates—but, of course, officers should not go on or near the active railway without them. It is a purely definitional issue, not a policy issue.

Pauline McNeill

Well, there you have it. It may be a technical issue, but I do not really think that firearms officers cannot attend a security breach anywhere on our railways. It sounds to me like Stewart Stevenson’s point is a wee bit of a red herring.

Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I put it on record that I am convener of the RMT’s parliamentary group.

I wish to raise a point that is relevant to the training issue. The RMT is currently working with Network Rail and the British Transport Police on the new emergency intervention units, which will respond to incidents in order to improve safety, reduce disruptions and prevent and detect crime. The RMT is concerned about the status of the EIUs if the bill is passed. I would be keen to hear the minister’s comments on that.

I support amendments 2 and 5, as their provisions could help to address such concerns.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

This is quite irregular, but I am happy to let Mr Stevenson in for a very quick statement.

Stewart Stevenson

I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests, which shows that I am honorary president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport and honorary vice-president of Railfuture UK. Thank you, Presiding Officer.

Humza Yousaf

Although they take slightly different routes to doing so, Neil Bibby’s amendments 2 and 5 both seek to apply statutory requirements to the nature and level of training that officers should have in a particular operational policing area. Similar amendments were lodged by the Conservatives at stage 2. As I explained to the Justice Committee at the time, neither the Scottish Parliament nor the Scottish Government should attempt to intervene in operational policing by dictating fixed training requirements for police officers. Neil Bibby said that it was not his intention to do that, but his amendments would in effect be doing just that. We are aware of no precedent for Parliament prescribing requirements on the chief constable in that way, and the Scottish Government cannot support either of Neil Bibby’s amendments.

John Finnie has made a number of pertinent remarks on the issue, both just now and during stage 2 committee consideration. He highlighted the point that the work of Police Scotland covers a wide range of specialist areas of expertise, all of which come with their own distinct skills, requirements, risks and specialist training. At stage 2 he mentioned firearms, dog handling, detecting explosives and vehicle examinations as just some of those areas. As he pointed out, health and safety legislation applies to all of those.

Of course, we do not attempt to determine what firearms qualifications, driving qualifications and so on police officers should have. Those are operational policing matters. Once again, to borrow John Finnie’s words, we should not be micromanaging the police. It is the chief constable who is responsible for operational policing. His responsibilities include ensuring that officers across Police Scotland have the specialist training that they need to carry out their duties. That is continually kept under review to meet operational requirements.

Police Scotland has written three times to the Justice Committee, providing details on the work that it is doing on training requirements for specialist railway policing. I refer interested members to that correspondence, which sets out how differing levels of requirements for specialist railway police training will be met. It is available on the Justice Committee’s web pages. Police Scotland is currently working with the BTP on a detailed training needs analysis, and we should allow those with the expertise to continue with that work.

The Scottish Government opposes the amendments and I ask Neil Bibby not to press them. If they are pressed, I ask Parliament to reject them.

16:15  



The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Neil Bibby to wind up and press or withdraw amendment 2.

Neil Bibby

The bill in its present form makes no mention of training, yet the post-integration needs of Police Scotland and the associated costs have been a major concern of the British Transport Police Federation, the trade unions and members of the Justice Committee. I assure Stewart Stevenson and other members that I am not seeking a departure from current practice. However, without making specific provisions in the bill, the transport policing specialism could be diluted and specialist skills could be lost. We cannot allow that to happen.

There is not enough clarity or transparency about training in the bill, which is what my amendments, which are a refinement on stage 2 amendments, aim to address. As Stewart Stevenson said, my amendments are an improvement. They are about assigned duties, which is why I intend to press the amendments in my name.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division. As this is the first division at this stage, I suspend proceedings for five minutes.

16:16 Meeting suspended.  



16:21 On resuming—  



The Deputy Presiding Officer

We move to the division on amendment 2.

For

Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Against

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 53, Against 66, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 disagreed to.

Amendment 3 moved—[Neil Bibby]—and agreed to.

Amendment 8 moved—[Humza Yousaf]—and agreed to.

Amendment 4 not moved.

Amendment 9 moved—[Humza Yousaf]—and agreed to.

After section 2

Amendment 5 moved—[Neil Bibby].

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 5 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Against

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 51, Against 66, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 5 disagreed to.

After section 6

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Group 3 is on review. Amendment 6, in the name of Neil Bibby, is the only amendment in the group.

Neil Bibby

Amendment 6 would create a review period that would begin on the day on which section 4 of the act comes into force and end no later than 12 months afterwards. Section 4 relates to the functions that will no longer be exercisable in Scotland—specifically the functions of the British Transport Police Authority. The amendment would require an independent review of the act, following a review period of no more than 12 months. The review body would be appointed by Parliament and should conclude its work no later than six months after the end of the review period. The Scottish Government should issue a response no later than six months after that. The Scottish Government may then, through regulation, modify the act in line with the recommendations of that independent review. Any regulations that are made under section 4 would be subject to affirmative procedure. In effect, 12 months after any new railway policing arrangements are put in place, Parliament could revisit the issue.

Not one of the principal stakeholders that are involved with the British Transport Police—the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the British Transport Police Federation, Abellio ScotRail, Virgin East Coast, Virgin West Coast and Arriva CrossCountry, to name just a few—supports the bill. The majority of respondents to the Scottish Government’s consultation and the Justice Committee’s call for evidence opposed the bill. Today, many of the critical issues that arose from the consultation and the committee’s evidence sessions remain unresolved. Trade unions tell us that they believe that agreements on terms and conditions and pre-legislative scrutiny have been sacrificed for the sake of political expediency.

Amendment 6 is a safeguard against a rushed, reckless and irresponsible piece of legislation. It would guarantee that Parliament would revisit integration of the British Transport Police with Police Scotland. I believe that we will, if we pass the bill today, be making a big mistake. If the Government will not listen, it should at least agree to revisit the legislation. That is why a review is necessary—an independent review on which Parliament would have a formal say.

I move amendment 6.

Margaret Mitchell

Amendment 6 seeks to strengthen scrutiny of the bill, should it be passed today at decision time. Given the lack of information that has been provided by the Scottish Government regarding the costs of implementation and regarding the legal structure by which British Transport Police officers will be transferred into Police Scotland, the setting up of an independent body to report on the operation of the act is not only an eminently sensible suggestion, but a necessary one.

Amendment 6 would also require that the report from the independent body be responded to by Scottish ministers in consultation with Parliament. Should the Scottish Government vote against the amendment today, it will merely confirm the lengths that it has been willing to go to in order to avoid thorough scrutiny of its decisions throughout this process and beyond.

In the interests of accountability and transparency, amendment 6 should be passed, which is why it has the full support of the Scottish Conservatives.

Mike Rumbles

Given the seriousness of the concerns that have been raised in relation to the bill, and the likelihood that the bill will, despite them, be passed into law later today, and given the slavish support that the SNP Government receives from its Green Party MSP partners—[Interruption.]

Well, they are its partners, are they not? [Interruption.] Look—we have a minority Government, do we not?

I certainly urge the Parliament—[Interruption.] Gosh! I certainly seem to have stirred some boxes.

John Finnie

Will the member take an intervention?

Mike Rumbles

No. I think that I would like to proceed.

I certainly urge Parliament to take steps to keep ministers on their toes.

Tom Arthur (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

Play the man, why don’t you?

Mike Rumbles

It is interesting that, given all the negativity about the bill, SNP members can only heckle.

The lack of prior consultation and the determination of ministers—[Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Order. Can we have a bit of quiet please? It is difficult enough for us to proceed because we have a difficulty with the system without making it worse.

16:30  



Mike Rumbles

As I was saying, given the lack of prior consultation and the determination of ministers to proceed with the dismantling of the BTP and its merger with Scotland’s centralised police force, the least that we should do at this stage is place an obligation on the Government to review the legislation. That does not seem unreasonable to me, and it is as is proposed by Neil Bibby in amendment 6.

As the minister knows from amendments that were lodged by my colleague Liam McArthur at stage 2, Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that a more fundamental safeguard is required. As we will come to shortly in the context of the final amendment, we believe that implementation of the ill-judged proposals should be delayed until some of the significant flaws can be addressed—if, indeed, that is possible. For now, however, we are happy to support Mr Bibby’s reasonable call for a review in the terms that are set out in amendment 6.

Humza Yousaf

I recognise the desire that is shown by amendment 6 from Neil Bibby for on-going parliamentary scrutiny of railway policing, following integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland. However, I do not believe that the approach that is set out in the amendment is the right one, and the Scottish Government cannot support it.

Well-developed mechanisms are already in place for parliamentary scrutiny of policing and policing legislation. I am sure that Neil Bibby does not intend to cast doubt on the effectiveness of those. Let me provide a reminder of what they involve.

Section 124 of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 already obliges Parliament to keep that act under review. It is in that very act that the majority of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill will make insertions. That means that a clear mechanism for review is already very much in place—via the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing—under which Parliament is obliged to review and report. Of course, it is also open to Parliament to conduct post-legislative scrutiny at any time.

The Justice Committee’s stage 1 report also asked the Scottish Government to provide six-monthly progress reports to Parliament on the work of the joint programme board. In responding to that report, I confirmed that we will do that. That will ensure that Parliament is kept up to date with progress on the board’s work throughout the period of integration. I am happy to give an undertaking today that the Scottish Government will continue to provide progress reports for at least the first year following integration, in order to provide the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny through the period to which Neil Bibby‘s amendment refers. I welcome Parliament’s keen interest in ensuring that the newly devolved railway policing powers will be used effectively. Indeed, it is a fundamental premise of the bill that Parliament should scrutinise how policing of the railways is carried out in Scotland. The bill is about ensuring that railway policing is accountable to Parliament.

I was surprised to hear in Margaret Mitchell’s contribution that she does not think that the bill has been scrutinised particularly well; she is convener of the committee that scrutinised it. Following Mike Rumbles’s contribution for the Liberal Democrats, I remind him that his party also supported the bill at stage 1.

I do not believe that we need an independent reporting body and provision for yet more regulations when strong and effective scrutiny powers and processes are already in place. Amendment 6 would create duplication and, potentially, confusion. I ask Neil Bibby not to press the amendment, and I ask Parliament to reject it if he does.

Neil Bibby

Trade unions and staff associations have described the Scottish Government’s approach to the bill as being “ideologically driven”. Despite being presented with different options for devolution by the BTPA, it has been focused on one outcome, and one outcome only: breaking up the BTP. The weight of evidence is against it, the workforce is against it and police officers are warning that the break-up will be unsafe, yet the Scottish Government has carried on regardless. That is why it is important that we ensure and guarantee an independent review if the bill is passed. I welcome the support of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and I hope that the Greens will also support my reasonable request.

I will press amendment 6.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 6 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Against

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 53, Against 65, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 6 disagreed to.

Section 7—Commencement

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Group 4 is on commencement. Amendment 7, in the name of Liam McArthur, is the only amendment in the group.

Mike Rumbles

In a sense, this is the last chance saloon for Parliament when it comes to dealing with the bill—a bill that has been rushed through with inadequate consultation and despite overwhelming opposition among those who responded to the Government and those who responded to the Justice Committee’s call for evidence. We supported the bill at stage 1 to see whether we could improve it, but it is proving impossible to do so. As my colleague Liam McArthur made clear at stage 1, Parliament has repeatedly heard concerns about the impact that the bill is likely to have on BTP officers and staff, on the availability of specialist expertise around the policing of our railways and even, potentially, on the ability of the railway operators to provide a safe and efficient service to the travelling public.

Since the stage 1 debate, we have been informed that Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland was committed to producing a piece of work on the BTP this spring. The inspectorate’s phase 1 work, involving an inspection of the efficiency, leadership and legitimacy of the British Transport Police, was to be followed in the autumn by phase 2, involving a joint inspection with the inspectorate south of the border into the effectiveness of the BTP. The inspectorate was to use its inspection activity

“to identify strategic issues relating to the devolution of railway policing in Scotland and the transfer of functions from BTP and the British Transport Police Authority to Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority”,

yet the phase 1 report has not yet been made available. Perhaps the minister can shed light on that. What he cannot do, however, is persuade me and my colleagues that that delay will do anything to allay concerns among stakeholders and the wider public about the gung-ho fashion in which the SNP Government is blundering on with this latest policing merger.

Concerns have also been expressed about the ability of Police Scotland to accommodate yet more structural change. Audit Scotland has highlighted serious shortcomings in Police Scotland’s financial management, many of the savings that were promised by ministers at the time of centralisation—a centralisation that we opposed—have not materialised and ministers are about to embark upon a wholesale review as part of policing 2026. In those circumstances, even Police Scotland’s severest critics would not wish this latest merger on it. Add to that a Scottish Police Authority that cannot seem to keep out of the headlines at the moment and is on the hunt for a new chair after the resignation this month of Andrew Flanagan, and this looks like the wrong move, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.

If the Government is intent on pressing ahead, there is a compelling case for delaying implementation of the bill’s provisions. Amendment 7, in Liam McArthur’s name, proposes a delay of 10 years. I am grateful to Stewart Stevenson, this time, for his helpful suggestion at stage 2 that the amendment should stipulate “no sooner than 2027”, which has been taken fully on board. Thank you, Stewart. I firmly believe that such a delay is in the interests not only of policing in Scotland, both on our railways and more widely, but of the travelling public and this Parliament, by allowing more time for the ground to be better prepared, even if the direction of travel remains the same.

I move amendment 7.

Margaret Mitchell

Amendment 7 delays the commencement of the bill to 1 April 2027. The delay would allow the Scottish Government to take into account the vocal opposition to the bill that has been heard in Parliament today and from almost every stakeholder who would be affected. From consultation through to stage 3, the Scottish Government’s intransigence and refusal to accept any measure to improve the bill has been nothing if not consistent.

A delay in the commencement of the bill would allow the Scottish Government to take on board the many valid and serious criticisms of the bill. In addition, it would provide a much needed opportunity for the other two options set out by the British Transport Police to be considered. Given the recent terrorist attacks and the fact that the United Kingdom is still on serious alert, this is not the time to rush through potentially dangerous legislation that puts the safety of staff and passengers on our railways at risk. I urge other members not to blindly adhere to the party whip and to join the Scottish Conservatives in supporting amendment 7.

Mairi Evans (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

It will be no surprise that I completely disagree with the sentiments expressed by Margaret Mitchell and Mike Rumbles. I cannot support amendment 7, in the name of Liam McArthur, which is effectively a wrecking amendment and would introduce a delay for another decade.

What would happen in Scotland in the interim, particularly if the Tories’ plans in England go ahead? We have to bear that in mind when we consider the amendment. Let us not forget what the Conservative 2017 manifesto says:

“We will create a national infrastructure police force, bringing together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and the British Transport Police to improve the protection of critical infrastructure such as nuclear sites, railways and the strategic road network.”

Why is it one rule down there and another up here? I get the feeling that the Tories are against it because it is an SNP proposal.

There are a number of reasons why I support the bill as it stands. The map of the rail network in Scotland shows that there is a vast area north of Perth towards the Highlands and north of Dundee towards Aberdeen that is serviced by secondary and rural lines. That area is currently covered by 28 officers, located at Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. That means that dozens of rural stations are covered 24 hours a day by only 28 full-time officers on a rotational shift basis. The area covers approximately a third of the entire rail network in Scotland, which is just over 2,800 km in total.

The cabinet secretary already informed the Justice Committee that policing of railway incidents that occur beyond the central belt is

“largely delivered by Police Scotland”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 28 March 2017; c 13.]

I know that from experience in my constituency, and it happens because of the length of time that it takes British Transport Police officers to respond.

By agreeing to the amendment, we would limit—to use Liam McArthur’s phrase—the “availability of specialist expertise” until April 2027. We received written evidence from Assistant Chief Constable Higgins, who saw the bill as

“an opportunity to weave railway legislation ... and other associated elements into the curriculum for probationer training. This will allow every officer joining Police Scotland to operate safely in the railway environment.”

He said that that will

“ensure that all officers have an understanding of the requirements of working on the railways, including legislative inputs, policing powers, safe systems of working, line disruption and track safety.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You must come to a close, Ms Evans.

Mairi Evans

I am just coming to a close, Presiding Officer.

It seems to me that having well-trained Police Scotland officers and a specialist railway division within Police Scotland benefiting from working alongside experienced British Transport Police officers can only lead to an improvement of the service, not just for rural communities, but across the whole railway network. That will—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You must close, Ms Evans.

Mairi Evans

It will bolster the services that we have instead of diminishing them.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I remind all members that there will be a debate following our stage 3 deliberations and that stage 3 deliberations are time limited. When I say that a member must come to a close, they really must do so.

16:45  



Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

There are serious concerns about the timing of the bill and the significant challenges that are facing Police Scotland and the SPA. Audit Scotland has identified a financial black hole that Police Scotland is struggling to fill; Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland has recently identified a lack of leadership and poor financial management at the SPA; and we can all point to difficulties arising from the handling of the police merger. The 2026 police strategy has just been published and our focus must be on building confidence in Police Scotland and delivering a modern police force.

Breaking up the British Transport Police has been identified as the most expensive and high-risk option for the devolution of the functions of the British Transport Police. I agree that now is not the right time to push forward with the merger.

Humza Yousaf

During the Justice Committee’s stage 2 consideration, we debated a similar amendment to Liam McArthur’s amendment 7, which Mike Rumbles has moved. No one in the chamber will be surprised to hear that I strongly opposed the stage 2 amendment, and that I will oppose amendment 7.

Amendment 7 would delay commencement of the bill to

“no sooner than 1 April 2027”,

which would potentially mean an even longer delay than would have been the case under Liam McArthur’s stage 2 amendment, under which the provisions would have commenced on the exact date of 1 April 2027.

As Mike Rumbles has explained, Liam McArthur’s reason for proposing such a delay is to give more time for the SPA, Police Scotland and others to prepare. However, in the Justice Committee’s evidence sessions, the chief executive of the SPA and ACC Bernie Higgins of Police Scotland both gave their view that the target date for integration of 1 April 2019 is achievable. ACC Higgins went further and described it as “a luxury”.

In the stage 1 debate, I referred to the work of the joint programme board that is overseeing the overall programme of work to integrate the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland for that date. Through the board, the Scottish Government is working closely with the UK Government, the SPA, the British Transport Police Authority, Police Scotland and of course the BTP. In that debate, I gave an undertaking that we will provide six-monthly progress reports to Parliament on the work of the joint programme board, in line with a recommendation in the Justice Committee’s stage 1 report. Those progress reports will provide regular opportunities to scrutinise progress.

Our readiness is one part of the picture, but another crucial question is what would happen to railway policing in Scotland in the meantime if we decided to sit back and wait, as amendment 7 suggests. Mairi Evans made the point well that, as I am sure members are now very aware, the Conservative manifesto for the recent UK elections set out an alternative path for the BTP. Mairi Evans was slightly wrong when she said that it was in the UK Tory manifesto, as in fact the Scottish Conservative manifesto also sets out that the BTP is to be integrated with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the MOD Police into a new national infrastructure police force. If the Conservatives have their way, it is likely that there will no longer be a British Transport Police by 1 April 2027. I therefore believe that we should continue on the timescales that we and our partners are currently working to.

In relation to the points that have been made—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You must close please, minister.

Humza Yousaf

It would be remiss of any member to suggest that integration will somehow compromise safety. The response to recent attacks has shown that Police Scotland can provide an armed response at transport hubs.

I ask Mike Rumbles not to press amendment 7 but, if it is pressed, I ask Parliament to reject it.

Mike Rumbles

In response to the minister, I point out that ACC Higgins’s reference to the timeframe being generous only underscores the other difficulties that ACC Higgins and his colleagues are grappling with. It should not be taken as enthusiasm on his part for taking on that increased workload and further structural change.

I am not surprised that the minister opposes amendment 7, and I am sure that it will be disagreed to, with the help of his Green friends and partners on the other side of the chamber, who seem to support everything that the SNP Government does. [Interruption.] I have obviously struck a chord there, because there seems to be dissonance on the SNP back benches. I will press the amendment.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 7 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No!

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Clearly, there will be a division.

For

Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Against

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 53, Against 66, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 7 disagreed to.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That ends consideration of amendments to the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

As members will be aware, at this point in the proceedings the Presiding Officer is now required under standing orders to decide whether the motion to pass the bill will require support from a supermajority of members: that is, a two-thirds majority, which is 86 members. In this case, the Presiding Officer has decided that, in his view, no provision in the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill relates to a protected subject matter. Therefore, the bill does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.

Final debate on the Bill

Once they've debated the changes, the MSPs discuss the final version of the Bill.

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

Final debate transcript

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

Time is tight as we have run slightly over. The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-06356, in the name of Humza Yousaf, on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

16:52  



The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf)

I am pleased to open this stage 3 debate on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. I thank all those who have contributed in different ways to parliamentary consideration of the bill. I am grateful to members of the Justice Committee and the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee for their detailed scrutiny of the bill, and the constructive and helpful recommendations that were set out in their reports. I also thank members for their contributions during the stage 1 debate, as well as today.

I am particularly grateful to all those who took the time to contribute oral and written evidence to the Justice Committee. That input is vital to effective parliamentary scrutiny and it is important that there is an opportunity for all perspectives to be heard. The committee’s report has done an excellent job of summarising those perspectives and setting out for us how they should be taken into account. We have responded positively to many of those recommendations.

This Parliament is now accountable for railway policing in Scotland. I believe that the process of parliamentary scrutiny of the bill demonstrates a clear appetite to take those responsibilities seriously on behalf of the people of Scotland. Scotland’s railways are a vital component of our national infrastructure, and the specialist railway policing function that the British Transport Police provides is highly valued by the Scottish Government, the rail industry, railway staff and, of course, passengers.

In taking forward the bill, our primary objective is to maintain and enhance the high standards of safety and security for railway users and staff in Scotland. Police Scotland has confirmed to the Justice Committee that its intention is to maintain a specialist railway policing function within its broader structure. Assistant Chief Constable Higgins of Police Scotland gave an assurance that Police Scotland would respect the right of any member of the British Transport Police who transfers to police the railway environment until they retire.

Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

During the consideration of amendments, I raised an issue that was not addressed, and I would like the minister to address it now. What will happen to the emergency intervention units? What will their status be if the bill is passed?

Humza Yousaf

As was mentioned during the consideration of amendments, the operation of the emergency intervention units will continue to be an operational matter for the chief constable; it would not be for the Parliament or the Government to intervene on that. It would be fair to say that, for all of us—the chief constable of Police Scotland, the Government and Opposition members—the safety of those who travel on or work on our railways is of paramount importance.

It is extremely important that we preserve the existing specialist railway policing expertise. We have said that we want that to continue post-integration, and ACC Higgins has said that that will be the case. I welcome the amendment that John Finnie lodged at stage 2—which was agreed to—to include that guarantee in the bill.

The integration of the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland will deliver an integrated approach to transport infrastructure policing in Scotland and will bring railway policing alongside the policing of roads, seaports, airports and border policing. Integration is about providing a single command structure for policing in Scotland so that there is access to wider support facilities and specialist resources. Crucially, those include Police Scotland’s counter-terrorism capabilities. The size and nature of a single police service in Police Scotland enables it to flex rapidly to deal with dynamic situations. In response to recent events, we have seen an increase in armed police response, for example at transport hubs. That is a response that is not provided by the BTP—it is provided by Police Scotland.

Another key benefit that the bill provides is that of directly improving the accountability of railway policing in Scotland to those who depend most upon it. It establishes a mechanism for railway operators to agree with the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland on the service, performance and costs of railway policing in Scotland. As we heard earlier when we considered the amendments, the bill places the SPA under an obligation to seek the views on railway policing matters of passengers, railway employees, police constables and staff, and others.

I am aware that members have received correspondence from the British Transport Police Federation expressing some doubt about the guarantees that we have set out on terms and conditions for officers and staff who transfer to Police Scotland. I would like to repeat those assurances so that members can be clear that there is no such doubt. I remain absolutely committed to our triple-lock guarantee to secure the jobs, pay and pensions of railway policing officers and staff in Scotland.

Just this morning, I launched the hate crime charter, which the City of Edinburgh Council, alongside a number of transport providers, has developed to stamp out all forms of hatred on our transport networks. I spoke to BTP officers, who told me that they had received reassurances—they were almost quoting them verbatim—on the triple-lock guarantee. Of course, the devil will be in the detail. The discussions of the joint programme board will be extremely important in taking forward the commitment that we have given in that regard.

On 9 May, I gave a clear assurance that the terms and conditions, pay and pensions of officers and staff who transfer will be the same as they are currently, or that an equivalent level of benefit will be provided to ensure that transfer takes place on a no-detriment basis. On pensions, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice is on record as saying that our starting point is that officers and staff who transfer will retain access to their current pension scheme. Passage of the bill will enable the steps to deliver those commitments to proceed, including secondary legislation in the United Kingdom Parliament. Although considerable work on the detail must follow, our commitment to those guarantees is absolutely clear.

I would like to address again the suggestion that some members have previously made that there are alternative ways of using the powers over railway policing that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Tories said during the stage 1 debate on the bill that their favoured alternative was

“to enable the BTP to continue in Scotland and across the UK”,

and that

“devolution offers the chance to keep the single British Transport Police force”.—[Official Report, 9 May 2017; c 42, 77.]

It was with some surprise, then, that when I opened the Scottish Conservative Party manifesto for the recent UK elections I read the following:

“We will create a national infrastructure police force, bringing together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and the British Transport Police to improve the protection of critical infrastructure such as nuclear sites, railways and the strategic road network.”

Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

Will the minister accept an intervention on that point?

Humza Yousaf

Yes.

Oliver Mundell

I thank the minister for taking an intervention. Does he recognise, although it might not be convenient to the political point that he is trying to make, that there is a big difference between consolidating specialist policing across the UK and amalgamating specialist policing into a single police force that deals with all aspects of policing?

Humza Yousaf

The member highlights why there is one rule for Westminster and another for Scotland. One of the reasons why we are doing this is accountability, but the other reason is to ensure that there is integration between railway policing and other transport modes, whether that is seaports or airports. If the member can accept that that is the case for what he claims is happening in England and Wales, why does he not accept that that is what we are trying to do up here in Scotland, too—to integrate railway policing with the policing of seaports, airports and so on and so forth?

Given the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment to merge the BTP south of the border into a bigger national infrastructure force, I would have expected that we could count on Conservative support for the bill. However, given Oliver Mundell’s intervention, that will probably not be the case.

Members can now be in no doubt whatever what the Conservatives would do if we left the decision on railway policing in Scotland to the UK Government. Railway policing in Scotland would still be integrated, but not with the policing of the rest of Scotland’s transport infrastructure, which is what we want. Instead, railway policing would be integrated, bizarrely, with the strategic road network of England and Wales and with the policing of nuclear and Ministry of Defence sites. There is no synergy in that, no logic, and indeed no comprehension. I hope that no one in the chamber today considers that to be a valid alternative to the one that we have set out in the bill.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Minister, time is tight. Could you conclude your remarks and move the motion, please?

Humza Yousaf

The Tories have effectively called in their manifesto for the abolition of the BTP. I urge members to support the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, to ensure that specialist railway policing in Scotland is accountable, through the chief constable of Police Scotland and the SPA, to the people of Scotland.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill be passed.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Oliver Mundell. You have a tight six minutes, Mr Mundell.

17:02  



Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

When it comes to a bill such as the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, it is easy to get caught up in debating the detail. After all, in most cases, that would be a prudent use of our time. However, this proposition is not about the facts, the evidence or what works. We know that for certain because, if it was, the proposed integration would never be before us. Instead, this ill-judged and ill-thought-out idea is before us for one reason and one reason only: the Scottish National Party Government’s constitutional and ideological obsession with control.

It gets right to the heart of everything that has gone wrong on the SNP’s watch. To many watching at home, it will seem absurd that we are spending our time debating the break-up of the only division of policing that is working well in Scotland at the moment.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Will the member give way?

Oliver Mundell

No, I will not give way at this time.

Arguably, never in the history of legislation has such anger and ill feeling been invoked to deliver so little.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

Will the member give way?

Oliver Mundell

No, I will not give way.

Michael Matheson

That is an appalling thing to say.

Oliver Mundell

I will not give way.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Cabinet secretary, be careful.

Oliver Mundell

Under this Government we have seen ministers prioritise change for change’s sake rather than addressing the on-going chaos at Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. At a time when accountability, scrutiny and transparency are absent in the line of duty, ministers have, with no hint of irony, had the brass neck to come to the chamber and knowingly ask us to make those problems worse.

Humza Yousaf

Will the member take an intervention?

Oliver Mundell

I will not take an intervention.

Humza Yousaf

I took an intervention from the member.

Oliver Mundell

That was the minister’s choice.

The problems, lest we forget, have been created and have festered on the SNP’s watch. It is therefore unsurprising that I, for one, take all the Government’s promises on the integration of the British Transport Police with a pinch of salt. Throughout this process, ministers have sought to plough ahead with a single option. They have ignored the proposals for a different model that were put forward by the British Transport Police Authority and they have discounted the many voices of those who raised real concerns about their dangerous plan.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands has admitted—

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Will the member take an intervention on that point?

Oliver Mundell

I will not take an intervention.

The minister has admitted in the past that he is no expert on transport matters. Perhaps that is forgivable in SNP land, but what is unacceptable in this case is to ignore the experts.

Humza Yousaf

Will the member take an intervention?

Oliver Mundell

I am not taking interventions, Presiding Officer, because the Scottish Government, throughout the scrutiny of the bill, has chosen to ignore the voices of the witnesses whom we have heard from. Countless organisations, which I will name, have raised concerns.

It is unacceptable for the Scottish Government to dismiss those who work at the coal face and to suggest that, after the failings in police policy that have occurred on its watch, it is somehow still remotely credible to suggest that it knows better. No one is buying it this time. Indeed, the list of those with concerns is almost as long as the Scottish Government’s list of excuses when it comes to policing matters. The BTP, the Rail Delivery Group, the BTP Superintendents Association Branch, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, ScotRail, CrossCountry, Virgin Trains East Coast, TransPennine Express and even the Samaritans, to name but a few, have all expressed varying degrees of concern, but do not worry, folks—the Scottish Government has everything in hand. It will all be fine—until it is not, at which point it will not be its fault, and it will be too late to go back to how things used to be.

Today, we have a chance to say, “No more.” We have a chance to draw a line under the mistakes of the past and to learn from them. We have a chance to tell ministers to focus on getting their own house in order; to demand that they divert their efforts to steadying the ship at Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority; to leave our British Transport Police intact until we see the 2026 vision for our police service successfully delivered; and to see the accountability, scrutiny and transparency in action before we commit to more upheaval.

If recent experience is anything to go by, sometimes we are better with the devil we know. The seemingly insurmountable and never-ending state of crisis that has engulfed the single police force tells us that integration and institutional transformation can be more expensive and less efficient and deliver a poorer service than just leaving those who are doing a good job to get on with it.

To ignore the warnings of the past seems foolish, but to ignore the warnings of the present is unforgivable. This is so plainly the wrong time for integration, and the wrong model. That is why the Scottish Conservatives remain fundamentally opposed to the integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland. The bill is not fit for purpose. We believe that, under the SNP Government, the risks of a botched job far outweigh any of the supposed benefits. What is more, we believe that the reckless way in which the SNP Government has bulldozed its preferred option through this Parliament will put public safety at risk on our railways.

We believe that, much like a runaway train, the bill needs to be halted in its tracks. I therefore urge members to vote it down at decision time and send this out-of-touch Government back to the drawing board.

17:08  



Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I thank the Justice Committee for all the work that it has undertaken during the passage of the bill. Unfortunately, many of the concerns that have been raised are still unanswered. That has led us to the position that we find ourselves in today. We have attempted to strengthen the bill and address some of those concerns through my colleague Neil Bibby’s amendments this afternoon. Although we do not agree with the direction of the bill, the amendments that were agreed to represent a step in the right direction. They will help to reassure workers and the unions about the importance of representation in the new organisation. There is, however, still a job to be done to address the training concerns and the concerns about potential loss of expertise.

From the first consultation exercise, industry experts have resisted the Government’s plans to integrate the British Transport Police into Police Scotland, yet the Scottish Government has pushed on regardless, ignoring calls for reflection and fuller consultation. It has been determined to push the bill through Parliament without fully looking at all the options available to it. It has chosen to ignore the concerns of staff and unions. That is regrettable.

A number of serious concerns have been raised throughout the process, and serious operational and financial questions remain unanswered. The bill is an expensive plan to fix something that is not broken. That is why we ask the Scottish Government not to pass the bill today but to pause and use the summer recess to engage with the trade unions, the industry at large and the British Transport Police to look at all the options that are open to achieve devolution. We know that there are at least three options, of which the bill is only one.

I make it clear that we are not saying that there should be no change. Scottish Labour agreed to the Smith commission report and we accept the principles that were agreed to, including the one that stated that the functions of the British Transport Police should be devolved. However, we do not agree with the conclusion that the Scottish Government has come to. We believe that we could have positive change and we must be confident that what is proposed is the right option. I remain unconvinced that the bill is the right option.

The bill will impact on cross-border rail services. According to evidence heard at committee, that could mean a reduction in the effectiveness of tackling major UK-wide issues, such as terrorism. The bill could mean a loss of expertise in our force.

John Finnie

Does the member recognise that the assistant chief constable gave the examples of the arrangements of the British Transport Police through the tunnel and into France? He did not see a challenge.

Claire Baker

Serious concerns were raised at committee by the British Transport Police Federation and other trade unions about effectiveness in tackling major incidents, and about the break-up of the British Transport Police. Notwithstanding John Finnie’s comments, I do not think that those concerns have been adequately addressed through the bill process. They certainly have not been addressed enough to satisfy the British Transport Police Federation.

The bill could mean a loss of expertise in the force and there are real concerns that such integration could lead to increased costs for rail operators and the general public either through increased fares or a reduction in the quality of service as operators’ funds are diverted to the increased costs of a merger. We have also heard many times that continuing with the bill would impact on the terms and conditions of service for current BTP officers and staff, and that future staff will not receive the same terms. None of those concerns has yet been fully addressed by the Government and no agreement on moving forward is in place.

The D division of the British Transport Police works for us here in Scotland, and we should be thanking those officers for their dedicated hard work, not threatening the organisation’s existence. The legislation has been rushed. There is more than one option for the future of the British Transport Police that would meet the objectives of the Smith commission but the options have not been given the proper scrutiny or consultation that they deserve. There is the option of a non-statutory devolved model of governance and accountability that could be achieved through administrative rather than legislative means. There is also the option for a statutory devolved model.

We believe that all options should be properly explored, but instead we have a Government that is determined to put legislation through Parliament that cannot command consensus. The rush to integrate D division into Police Scotland with overview from the SPA—an organisation that faces significant financial and governance difficulties—introduces a level of risk to transport policing that is not in the best interests of passengers. The bill has no manifesto mandate, no public support and very little industry support. It has operational concerns and serious financial unknowns. Scottish Labour cannot therefore support the bill this afternoon.

17:13  



Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I was disappointed to hear Oliver Mundell attacking many of my constituents who work for the Ministry of Defence Police and look after the St Fergus oil and gas terminal. They are effective, as policing across Scotland in all our forces is effective. The police are part of the reason why offending in Scotland is at a 42-year low.

Let us talk about borders. Claire Baker raised the issue of cross-border policing. We might have slightly forgotten that the British Transport Police is not a UK-wide force but a Great Britain police force. The Police Service Northern Ireland shares responsibility with An Garda Síochána for the policing of the railway system in Ireland. That involves a border between two states and the performance of policing there is no worse, being broadly similar to the performance of policing here. There are organisational models that we can choose and, when we look at that as an example, there is absolutely no reason to believe that we will have any difficulty.

Claire Baker also reminded us of the Smith commission, which was the genesis of the discussion that we are having today, and the unanimity of the view that the powers should be transferred to Scotland.

If a member of the public sees someone in a police uniform, they do not ask what police service they work for; indeed, they will not be aware of which service they work for. They simply recognise that they are a policeman or a policewoman and they will go to them for succour, information or assistance or to report problems, regardless of which police force they are with. A unified system that looks after Scotland has significant advantages, removing difficulties at interfaces.

There is not a huge amount of crime on the railway. The British Transport Police deal with about 10 offences a day in Scotland, which equates to 5.5 crimes a day—I am not sure why the figures are different.

The point has been made that, if we are to take on responsibility for railway policing, we should not do it now. However, I am reminded of the old saying that one should repair the roof of one’s house when the sun is out. In other words, we would be under the most immense criticism if we were to look at reorganising this facet of our policing in response to a crisis. Frankly, it is far better that we do it in a measured way that has taken place over several years.

Railway policing is not new. The Metropolitan Police opened for business on 29 September 1829 and the railway police started three years earlier. They have been around for a long time indeed.

I congratulate Neil Bibby on what has been a positive engagement. He has done something that Opposition members do not always get to do: he has managed to amend a Government bill. It took me about four years to succeed in doing that, despite my considerable efforts. He has done a good and useful thing.

We have had a great debate about personal track safety certificates. Whenever a police officer is close to an operational railway, it is important that they have the proper training. I have complete confidence that the chief constable will ensure that such training is provided to officers who have to be close to operational railways.

The bill is an excellent step forward, and I will be happy to support the Government come decision time tonight.

17:17  



Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

During the stage 1 debate, Douglas Ross, who was then an MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said of the proposals:

“To forge ahead regardless, ignoring the advice of so many experts and professionals, would be the wrong thing to do.”—[Official Report, 9 May 2017; c 44.]

As we debate the bill at stage 3, it gives me no pleasure to note that his words are being ignored.

Stakeholders remain overwhelmingly opposed to the proposals. The Rail Delivery Group has stated that integrating the service is not in passengers’ interests. The BTP warns that

“a deep and clear understanding of the unique requirements of the railway”

will be lost. The unions have expressed concerns about the safety of railway staff and passengers, and the RMT, ASLEF, the TSSA and the Scottish Trades Union Congress explicitly state that they oppose the bill. CrossCountry has said that the plans present a

“massive risk to network resilience”.

Just last week, we all received an open letter from the British Transport Police Federation, in which it stated that

“the security of passengers and rail staff is being risked in pursuit of rushed and ill-considered legislation”.

Virtually an entire industry is saying that the proposals will lead to increased delays for passengers, to compromised safety of passengers and staff, to lost expertise and to the dilution of the unrivalled specialism of existing railway policing. Yet, like Oliver Mundell’s runaway train, the Government barrels on, ignoring the danger signals and all desperate attempts to apply the brakes.

The BTP Federation and the commission on parliamentary reform have expressed grave concerns about the speed at which the bill has progressed through the Parliament, and they are right to do so. The bill was introduced on 8 December 2016 and was debated at stage 1 last month. However, according to the BTP Federation,

“right from the outset, there has been no acknowledgement of our views or those of the police officers ... because a simple decision has been taken that there is only one option—that of full integration.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 36-37.]

Michael Matheson

Will the member take an intervention?

Liam Kerr

There is no time—I am sorry.

The people have had no time to grasp fully and unreservedly the consequences and the challenges of the legislation. If only we could be confident that the Scottish Government was working off a template that worked. If only there were a seamless police merger that had delivered major benefits for the public; reduced costs; developed and integrated a cost-effective, functioning information technology system; increased public confidence in the police; reduced stress absence among those who deliver vital services, enabling them better to serve the public; and created a force that was operating so well that it was crying out for additional major responsibilities. If only there were such a merger, like the Police Scotland merger—or perhaps not.

It does not make sense to pursue this merger when the rail operators, the rail unions, the travelling public, the BTP Federation and the BTP itself do not want it, and when Deputy Chief Constable Hanstock has remarked that the plans have no “operational or economic benefits”.

Humza Yousaf

Will the member take an intervention?

Liam Kerr

I have four minutes; I cannot take interventions. I am sorry. There are important points to be made.

It does not make sense to pursue the merger when the bill appears to go against public safety—[Interruption.] The whole problem with this debate is that we are rushing—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I do not want discussions to take place across the chamber. The minister can deal with some of the points when he sums up.

Liam Kerr

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

Lord Chesterfield said:

“Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it the most, like it the least”.

SNP back benchers will care little for my advice, but this is the opportunity for the Scottish Government to listen to the evidence, to members across the Parliament who, having considered the evidence, refuse to support this misguided bill, and—most important—to industry experts, who have been resolute in their opposition.

If there is any doubt about whether passing the bill could prejudice safety, the precautionary principle mandates that members vote against it. That doubt exists. Members must decide, when voting tonight, whether they will follow the experts, the evidence and the industry and vote against the bill or herd behind Michael Matheson and Humza Yousaf. If the bill is passed today, and if, in the future, any of the warnings that have been expressed during this extraordinarily truncated process turn out to have been prescient—God forbid—the members who voted for the bill against the expert advice should remember that the voting record does not change. I know which column I want my name in.

17:21  



Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill is an extremely important piece of legislation that will strengthen and complement the work of Police Scotland.

Amendments in the names of Neil Bibby and Liam McArthur would have altered and delayed an essential piece of legislation that is crucial to the policing of Scotland. Recent events have demonstrated how important it is to have a co-ordinated, single-force approach to public safety. Even the naysayers of a Scotland-wide police force now agree that the force is working well and that eight legacy forces could not have achieved such an effective response to the recent heightened threat level.

As Mairi Evans said, the irony of the situation is that the 2017 Tory manifesto proposes the creation of a national police force, integrating the MOD Police, the BTP and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. The inference is that it is okay for that to happen in England but not in Scotland. There is no logic to that, and the Tory position is rank hypocrisy. Oliver Mundell’s comments were outrageous, disrespectful to Police Scotland and inaccurate—his speech was simply, “SNP bad”.

The integration of the BTP with Police Scotland will make the service fully accountable to the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament, which is entirely as it should be. Railway policing is currently accountable to the British Transport Police Authority, the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State for Transport in England and Wales. That is simply undemocratic.

More than 93 million rail journeys are made in Scotland each year, and there are another 8 million cross-border rail journeys, so it makes sense to upskill all police officers to ensure greater public safety and the security of our country. Should the bill proceed, after 2019 every Police Scotland officer will be trained in policing the railways. Officers will get exactly the same three-week training as is currently received only by BTP officers.

The specialism of transport policing will be retained, and Police Scotland has confirmed to the Scottish Parliament that a bespoke railway policing unit will be established for Scotland, to recognise and keep that specialism. The unit will sit alongside the specialist road policing unit that already exists and the ethos and specialism of railway policing will be enhanced, not diminished. In addition, as Mairi Evans said, rural areas that are currently not served by the BTP will benefit from having specially trained officers on hand to deal with incidents.

In amendment 5, Neil Bibby proposed that the Scottish ministers should specify the required level of personal track safety training. Does he really want to hand over operational duties to politicians? Does he not trust the knowledge and expertise of the chief constable?

Liam McArthur’s amendment 7 would have delayed integration until 2027. It might have been more honest of the Lib Dems just to say that they do not want integration. There are currently 285 full-time-equivalent BTP officers in Scotland and more than 17,000 regular police officers, so integration can only improve the service to the rail network throughout Scotland.

There was concern over the transfer of BTP staff and their pay and conditions through the course of integration. However, in December 2016, in a letter to the BTPF, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice gave a triple-lock guarantee to secure the jobs, pay and pensions of railway police officers and staff in Scotland. The minister confirmed that today. There will be no detriment to pay or pensions and no redundancies—it could not be clearer than that.

Contrary to the comments from the BTPF’s Nigel Goodband, Assistant Chief Constable Higgins described the timescale for the negotiations as a luxury and said that the engagement between the Scottish Government and the railway industry had been praised by both sides.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You have nine seconds.

Rona Mackay

Everyone agrees that the British Transport Police do, and have consistently done, a superbly professional job of keeping the rail-travelling public safe. The integration of railway policing—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

And that, I am afraid, Ms Mackay, is it. You should look at me rather than just plough on. I waved my pen. Please sit down.

17:25  



Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

From the outset, Scottish Labour has been clear that it supports the devolution of the British Transport Police in Scotland but cannot support the force’s dissolution in Scotland. The path that the Government has chosen is the wrong one. Members should make no mistake: it is a political choice, not a necessity. Labour will oppose the SNP’s attack on the British Transport Police and will also oppose in the House of Commons any attempt by the Conservative Government to attack the force.

There are alternatives to the dismantling of the British Transport Police as we know it and its integration into Police Scotland—alternatives that were set out by the British Transport Police Authority and that many people in the rail industry believe were never given serious consideration. I remind members what the Rail Delivery Group has said about the integration:

“the reason behind undertaking the integration is because it can be done as opposed to there being a well set out argument as to why it should be done.”

The British Transport Police Federation said:

“there has been no acknowledgement of our views or those of the police officers whom we represent, because a simple decision has been taken that there is only one option—that of full integration.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 36-37.]

It is shocking that the Government is ignoring the fundamental views and concerns of our police officers. The TSSA, which represents BTP staff, has also said that

“the idea of integration is first and foremost that of a political agenda that overrides the implications for policing”.

We have before us a bill that will break up a police service that has been subject to more reviews by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary than any other in the country. It has consistently been found to be efficient, to be cost effective and to carry the confidence of the travelling public. Not one of the principal stakeholders involved with the British Transport Police believes that integration is necessary, and not one believes that it will make the policing of our railways any better or make passengers any safer—not the officers, the staff, the train operators or the rail unions. If the train operators and the rail unions agree, surely we should listen.

Humza Yousaf

Claire Baker said that the status quo is not an option. She is correct. Neil Bibby has had since 2014, when the Smith commission conversations took place, to decide what the alternative should be. In his last minute and a half, will he at least give an indication of what model he proposes for the British Transport Police?

Neil Bibby

We must listen to the concerns of officers, staff, train operators and rail unions. We have to go back to the drawing board and look at the matter again. The Government is making a big mistake.

When the Justice Committee took evidence at stage 1, the majority of respondents raised concerns about the terms, conditions and pension rights of BTP officers and staff. The First Minister said in the chamber last week that assurances would be given to the workforce, and those assurances have been reiterated today. However, no agreement has yet been reached. I hear what the minister says but, as recently as last Tuesday, the BTP Federation wrote to MSPs to say that staff associations were yet to be included in any discussions. Our police officers are saying that the Scottish Government and civil servants are paying lip service to that crucial aspect of the process.

Despite the amendments that were agreed to today, which are welcome, the rail unions will still strongly oppose the bill and the merger. They have warned that, because of what they call the Scottish Government’s intransigence, there could be industrial action on our railways. That would be action not just to protect jobs and conditions but to protect a service that makes an invaluable contribution to public safety.

Nigel Goodband, the chairman of the British Transport Police Federation, wrote to the transport minister, personally warning that it would be “imprudent” to go ahead with the integration when the terrorist threat is severe and transport hubs are a target. He said:

“BTP Federation firmly believes that the travelling public and the railway staff in Scotland will be safer if they continue to be policed by officers of the BTP ... in the face of such a threat.”

Those are grave and serious warnings. It would be unthinkable that those warnings should be ignored. Police officers should be focused on protecting the public and doing their job, not implementing a merger that nobody wants.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Please stop there. I am letting you stop at that point—I am sorry, but we are very short of time.

17:30  



Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

I, too, will be supporting the bill at stage 3 and the integration of railway policing into the overall structure of Police Scotland. I will be doing so for two main reasons.

The proposal is not change for change’s sake, as has been alleged from the Opposition benches; it is about enhancing the provision of policing on our railways while maintaining the specialism of BTP and making it part of Police Scotland’s holistic service.

Integrating BTP with Police Scotland is an opportunity to improve railway policing in Scotland. Integration will enhance railway policing by allowing direct access to the specialist operational resources of Police Scotland.

As Assistant Chief Constable Higgins told the committee:

“It is a sensible move ... Police Scotland currently looks after the entire transport network in Scotland ... so it is sensible for it to look after the rail network as well.”

He also spoke about the extra capacity that will be available, stating:

“the reality is that Police Scotland is the second-largest force in the United Kingdom, with some 17,000 officers and assets that are simply not available to the British Transport Police D division. Although at present we will deploy those assets on request, they will be routinely deployed should integration take place. That will lead to greater effectiveness and efficiency and, in my view, a greater ability to deploy more resource to locations that currently do not receive”

such support. Furthermore, Chief Constable Crowther from the British Transport Police stated that, operationally,

“Police Scotland has the full range of specialist capabilities available to it”

and added:

“Police Scotland has everything that it needs”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 4 and 6.]

to police the railway in Scotland.

The Opposition has alleged in the debate that the operators oppose the proposed legislation. Graham Meiklejohn of TransPennine Express said:

“There is an opportunity for things to improve in Scotland and for the force in England and Wales then to up its game and improve, as well.”

He also said:

“There is an opportunity for improved efficiency.”

Darren Horley from Virgin Trains said of the bill:

“From a Virgin Trains point of view, it is an opportunity.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 21 March 2017; c 21, 26 and 9.]

Therefore, it is not correct to state that operators are solely against the proposed legislation—that is simply not true if one refers to the evidence that the committee received.

The bill provides for an integrated approach to transport infrastructure policing, bringing railway policing alongside the policing of roads, seaports, airports and border policing. It is right to integrate it in that way.

In the time that remains, I will focus on maintaining the specialism of railway policing under the bill. At committee, it was said that it was important to maintain and enhance the specialist unit through the service that is envisaged, and also to maintain the ethos. I was assured by the cabinet secretary that

“the current ethos”

is

“to be recognised and maintained and taken forward in how railway policing is delivered.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 28 March 2017; c 20.]

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins also assured us that

“there is a very strong ethos in the BTP, which we would want to retain ... One of Police Scotland’s strengths is not necessarily our single ethos or aim of keeping people safe, but the multiple cultures that we have within the organisation.”

He stated further that it is

“our intention to have a bespoke transport unit within Police Scotland”,

which he would view as

“sitting alongside ... road policing”,

and there

“would be two separate entities under that overarching command.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 7 March 2017; c 10-11, 32.]

That reassures me that the specialist railway policing function will be maintained within the broader Police Scotland structure.

The minister also assured us on issues of abstraction during the stage 1 debate, and I am grateful and reassured by that, too.

On that point, I conclude—on time.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you very much for your co-operation, Mr Macpherson.

17:34  



John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I am a former police officer and a long-time supporter of the BTP being integrated with the police in Scotland. As my colleague Stewart Stevenson said, the public do not differentiate in a way that some of us might imagine they do.

I accept that people on both sides of the argument hold very strong views. Many members have expressed such views and recounted the views of other people. I must say that I thought that the speech by the Conservative spokesperson, Oliver Mundell, was shocking. He seems fair chuffed with himself and was probably on social media professing his good work, but this is a debating chamber, and the idea is that we debate the issues. I am very happy to concede time for Mr Mundell to stand up and apologise to the police officers that he slighted during his speech.

Language is important. I have heard words such as “dangerous” being used, but there is nothing dangerous about Police Scotland. Of course there are challenges in any part of the public sector, but there are no dangerous practices being followed in Police Scotland. People talk about the legislation being “bulldozed through”—that has been said repeatedly, and it is unhelpful. If anyone has a complaint about the agreed parliamentary process not being followed, I would expect an objection to go, quite rightly, to the Presiding Officer.

We want to have an informed debate. There are members who have views that strongly oppose mine who have contributed to the debate in an inoffensive way. I ask Mr Mundell to reflect on many of his comments.

When I started in the police, the ethos was guard, watch and patrol to protect life and property. In 1976, I was at the same college as officers from the British Transport Police. We all went back to our respective forces and had our local procedures. As I was an officer in Leith, those were in the Edinburgh Corporation Order, whereas for many others it was the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892—yes, I am that old. For transport officers, the legislation was very much the same as they work under now, and there was additional training.

There were differences in the funding models and, more importantly, there were differences in the accountability models. What has changed significantly since 1976 is the accountability of police in Scotland. I do not see how anyone could take offence at the idea that in Scotland there should be parliamentary scrutiny of those who could deny a citizen their liberty. Indeed, I say to the cabinet secretary and the minister that I would like to see that scrutiny extended. As they know, I have concerns about some of the United Kingdom forces and their accountability in Scotland. I do not think that there should be an issue about accountability.

I accept that BTP officers genuinely have a heartfelt view about the ethos that they follow, which is about safety and keeping the system moving—I absolutely get that. A cash imperative is being introduced, and it will be with Police Scotland to ensure that the contract is met, but no one in their right mind is going to suggest that that will alter the working model. Indeed, as I have suggested, perhaps Police Scotland can learn something from the very fine way in which BTP officers and their support staff deal with tragic fatalities on the line. They can turn things around very quickly, whereas, as we know, our major trunk roads are sometimes held up for a considerable time.

There are challenges with terms and conditions—of course there are. My and my party’s support were absolutely conditional on there being no detriment to terms and conditions. I must say that the contribution from the British Transport Police Federation last week was not particularly helpful, never mind that it contained some inaccuracies—actuarial projections around pensions and the changed status are very challenging. I have taken reassurance, and I encourage others to take reassurance, on that; and I encourage people to be supportive of police officers as they move forward in an integrated service.

17:38  



Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

Clearly the bill has not had its critics to seek. The majority of respondents to the Government’s initial consultation ranged from sceptical to hostile. The committee’s call for evidence attracted responses that were similarly if not more sceptical and hostile. However, listening to Ben Macpherson and John Finnie just now, one would think that the centralisation of the police service in Scotland over the past few years had been a marvellous success. Given John Finnie’s experience, I am very surprised—

John Finnie

Will the member take an intervention?

Mike Rumbles

I am 30 seconds into a four-minute speech; I do not have time, I am afraid.

Although Scottish Liberal Democrats were prepared to see whether concerns could be addressed at stages 2 and 3, it became abundantly obvious that that would not happen. Ministers and others made up their minds long ago—John Finnie said it again—that they were right and the majority of those in the sector, including British Transport Police officers, staff and the railway operators, were all wrong. That is neither sensible nor healthy, although it is characteristic.

From the outset, ministers have argued that the bill simply implements the will of the Smith commission, but that is nonsense; it reflects the SNP’s interpretation of the Smith commission. Merger was only one of three options that the BTP working group identified, and it was the one with the highest degree of risk and the one that was opposed by most stakeholders. Sadly, no attempt was made by the Government or others to seek views on the options that would have minimised disruption to a service that is operating efficiently, effectively and in a highly professional manner across the UK, as the committee heard time and again.

The failure to consider or consult on other options undermines the ministers’ case, as do concerns about how the specialist expertise of the British Transport Police can be maintained and developed post merger; about how railway policing agreements are likely to operate, how costs will be assigned and how potential disputes will be resolved; and about Police Scotland’s ability to take on the additional functions and responsibilities while still facing very serious challenges as a result of the botched centralisation that this Government has driven through. All along, ministers’ response to those concerns has been to minimise or reject, rather than to address and allay.

In fairness, given the ill-conceived nature of the proposals, both in content and timing, the ministers might have made the best of a bad job; but it remains the case that it is a bad job of their own making. In large part, that goes to the heart of the amendment that I sought to get accepted earlier this afternoon. If the flaws in the approach that the Government is taking cannot be addressed in the time that is available for Parliament to consider the bill, the only responsible thing to do is to delay its implementation. The case for such a delay is strengthened by what now appear to be delays in the work of the inspectorate in respect of the British Transport Police.

If this minority Government and its Green partners still choose to reject such a delay, as they have; if they prefer instead to plough on with the dismantling of the British Transport Police and its merger into Police Scotland, based on political ideology rather than practical insight; and if they refuse to accept the serious misgivings that continue to exist in the sector and among the wider public, there is only one sensible course of action for this Parliament: to reject the bill. That is what Scottish Liberal Democrats will do at decision time today.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I thank Maurice Corry and Fulton MacGregor for accepting a time cut to two minutes each to enable both gentlemen to speak.

17:42  



Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

I oppose the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill that the Scottish Government has introduced. The SNP has decided to tear up the British Transport Police, an established British specialist policing unit, despite the fact that the model is successful. The deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police stated:

“We have not been able to identify any operational or economic benefits”

in merging with Police Scotland. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Why did the Scottish Government go down the road of what the British Transport Police Authority has described as the “most complex” option? Why did it not follow the simpler option, as set out in the Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto, which would save time and money and lead to an improved level of accountability to Parliament?

I urge members to reject the merger. Clear operational issues will arise, as our late colleague Alex Johnstone first highlighted in 2015. We face the ridiculous possibility of BTP officers having to get off a train before Scotland to be replaced by officers from the single Scottish force. If we reject the merger, we can avoid the security risks that the SNP plan threatens to cause. The chief executive of the BTPA stated that the authority has identified “several hundred” security risks that the merger will cause, so it is not a very sensible thing to do in these times of security uncertainties.

The experience of the Dutch railways also shows that

“the withdrawal of a dedicated railway police service and integration with the national police force can lead to a loss of specialism”,

leading to less effective policing and increased danger for commuters.

The lack of support for the bill from the public, the police and the railway operators is clear. We in this chamber should listen to them and reject the bill.

17:45  



Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate today, and I thank you for allowing me to speak at all, Presiding Officer, even though my time has been cut.

As a member of the Justice Committee, I pay tribute to all of my fellow committee members and those who gave evidence during our scrutiny of the bill. Like my colleagues, I will be pleased to support the bill at stage 3 today.

It is always worth remembering that the devolution of the BTP was agreed by all parties through the Smith commission. It has also been Scottish Government policy for some time, and I believe that the integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland will provide a more integrated and effective approach to infrastructure policing in Scotland and will ensure accountability to the people of Scotland.

My time has been cut, so I will not stick to what I had originally planned to say, but I would like to talk about Oliver Mundell’s comments. Most people who have mentioned them have said that they were surprised by them, as was I. That is because, during committee meetings, Mr Mundell has always worked hard to gain consensus. His outburst today was rather surprising and was more akin to the approach taken by his colleagues who sat on the committee previously. For him to say that the SNP is carrying on with the policy for constitutional reasons is totally absurd. Indeed, given what Mairi Evans and the minister told us today about Conservative policy down south, on the contrary, it is Mr Mundell’s party that has based its position—which is that the bill should not go ahead—on constitutional lines. I was disappointed by Mr Mundell’s contribution today, but I am sure that he will seek to work with us going forward.

I have only two minutes in which to speak, so I will simply say that I support the motion.

17:47  



Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill is unnecessary and unwanted. Along with colleagues on these benches, I warned that the bill is an example of the Scottish Government attempting to fix something that is not broken. There is little support for this bill from those who are involved in the operation of our rail industry or the officers on the ground who protect passengers on a daily basis.

Due to the limited time available to speak today, I will not be able to cover points that were made by my colleagues Neil Bibby and Claire Baker or by others across the chamber. The lack of time is possibly indicative of the rushed nature of the bill, which the British Transport Police Federation has expressed concerns about. It is worth repeating the many concerns that have been raised during the passage of the legislation.

Scottish Labour does not support the principles of this bill. The integration of the British Transport Police was not part of the Smith commission. We agreed to devolving the function of railway policing through the Smith commission, but there was no agreement about what that devolution would look like, and no party had a manifesto commitment to integrate the British Transport Police into Police Scotland.

We lodged amendments during stage 3 proceedings in order to enhance parts of the bill that unions wanted to be improved, because it is crucial that the real concerns that unions raised be dealt with in the bill. However, we will still vote against the bill at decision time, regardless of what the final bill looks like, as it is not in the interests of rail passengers, rail workers, rail operators or the skilled and experienced staff of the British Transport Police.

Last week, Nigel Goodband, chair of the British Transport Police Federation, sent MSPs a stark and important letter highlighting serious concerns about the bill’s process to date and its knock-on effect on rail safety. We know that the SNP does not like to listen to Opposition parties, but it should listen to those who know more about the safety and security of rail transport—they are the transport and policing experts, not Humza Yousaf, as he himself rightly conceded last year.

During the committee’s evidence sessions with stakeholders, we heard that the potential for skilled and experienced BTP officers to leave the service was real. Now we have Mr Goodband writing to MSPs to tell us that some have already sought transfers and that more plan to do so if BTP is integrated with Police Scotland. The uncertainty attributed to this bill is directly the responsibility of the Scottish Government, which has produced an unnecessary bill.

The Scottish Government is making the wrong choice by progressing the merger. The TSSA, the RMT, ASLEF and the British Transport Police Federation all oppose it—as I warned at stage 1, for serious and justifiable reasons, as Claire Baker and Neil Bibby have also pointed out already today. The TSSA believes that the merger is being pushed by a political agenda—not one for the safety and security of our rail network.

This is the last chance to stop and think about the wider range of options that were—and still are—available to the Government. That is why we call on the Scottish Government to pause its plans for Parliament, and to reject the bill. Let us use the summer recess to consult fully on all options for the devolution of the functions of the BTP. Let us work with the industry, the staff and the public and reach a consensus on the future of railway policing.

I urge members across the chamber to vote against the bill, as Scottish Labour will do at decision time tonight.

17:51  



Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

It affords me no pleasure to speak in the stage 3 debate on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, given that it is self-evident that, at the conclusion of the debate, the SNP, with the support of the Greens, will vote the bill through.

That is despite warnings from stakeholders that the merging of the BTP into Police Scotland will pose risks to security. To quote the chairman of the British Transport Police Federation:

“The railway network can ill afford to have a lower standard of security and protection at a time when the threat from terrorism remains severe.”

Those warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Why?

By way of background, it is true, as Fulton MacGregor said, that the bill stems from an agreement by all parties represented on the Smith commission that

“The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter.”

In response to that agreement, the BTP and the BTPA then set out a paper with three options for the proposal to be accomplished. They were: first, administrative devolution only; secondly, a statutorily devolved model of governance and accountability, with the BTPA retaining responsibility for railway policing in Scotland; and, thirdly, full integration of the BTP into Police Scotland.

The Scottish Government has considered only the last option. Just as it did with the ill-conceived named person legislation, it has dogmatically stuck to that option as a consequence of an SNP manifesto pledge. In doing so, it has totally ignored evidence from stakeholders about the potentially dangerous consequences of full integration. That has started with the expertise lost with the exodus, which is already beginning, of experienced BTP Scotland officers as a result of the complete failure of the Scottish Government to give those officers guarantees regarding jobs, pensions and pay.

Both Liam Kerr and Mary Fee referred to the open letter to all members of the Scottish Parliament that was sent last week, in which the British Transport Police Federation stated that

“officers are already seeking transfers or leaving policing altogether”

and that

“we believe the Scottish Government and civil servants are paying lip service to this crucial aspect of the process.”

The letter plainly states that the British Transport Police Federation

“still has no confirmation even on the legal mechanism the Scottish Government intends to use to transfer BTP officers into Police Scotland ... our questions have gone unanswered by the Scottish Government.”

That is an indefensible situation to be at during stage 3 of the legislative process.

Added to those concerns are issues highlighted by the rail operators, which fund the BTP in Scotland and include ScotRail, Virgin Trains and CrossCountry. The concerns include the cost of training Police Scotland officers, which the committee recommended should not be borne by the rail operators; the loss of BTP specialisms, such as reducing cable theft and assessing bomb threats, which help to minimise the impact of incidents on a UK-wide rail network; and the fact that Police Scotland officers will require personal track safety certificates, which both Douglas Ross and I addressed at stage 2 and Neil Bibby’s amendment sought to address at stage 3.

Let me put that in perspective. According to BTP’s written submission, over a 10-year period, 2.5 million unattended items were assessed by BTP officers using carefully developed procedures. Furthermore, our rail network is UK-wide, with 8 million passenger journeys and 2 million tonnes of freight crossing the border each year. The BTP Superintendents Association Branch told the committee that

“the introduction of dual controls at the border with different bomb threat categorisation arrangements”

would introduce “an element of risk”.

The bill is the product of the increasingly discredited scrutiny process—those who police and run the railways have concluded that the security of passengers and rail staff is being put at risk in pursuit of rushed and ill-considered legislation. That is why the Scottish Conservatives did not support the general principles of the bill at stage 1 and will be voting against the bill this evening.

17:56  



The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

I am grateful for the contributions to the stage 3 debate on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. Like some other members, I will pick up on points that were made by Oliver Mundell. Not only were his remarks ill-considered, but the way in which he attacked Police Scotland officers was shameful, given the sterling work those officers do for us day in, day out, right across the country.

Debate is important, and I accept that Oliver Mundell might not agree with the Scottish Government’s approach to railway policing, but Mr Mundell tried to make his case by slagging off Police Scotland officers for the work that they are doing. They deserve an apology, and I hope that Oliver Mundell will reflect on that after the debate. There are police officers who have just been stood down, following the threat level being changed to critical, whose rest days had been cancelled. They have to keep our communities and major transport hubs safe—they do that to keep people like Oliver Mundell safe. To slag them off, when they carry out that work, ill befits someone on the Conservatives’ front bench.

What has amazed me in the debate is the sheer hypocrisy of the Conservative Party. It lists what it sees as concerns about the integration of British Transport Police into Police Scotland but will not acknowledge that it plans to abolish BTP by creating an infrastructure police force in the UK, which would bring together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and BTP. That was not just in the UK Conservatives’ manifesto; it was in the Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto, too.

Members: Oh!

Michael Matheson

This is a party that is quite happy to stand here and lecture us about the approach that we should take in Scotland but is not prepared to stand up and defend its approach in England and Wales. That demonstrates the hypocrisy at the heart of the Conservative Party. The reality is that the Scottish Conservatives take their orders on such issues from London, and certainly not from Scotland.

The Conservative Party wants to lecture us on policing and the associated dangers. One party that I will not take such a lecture from is a party that cut 20,000 police officers in England and Wales, which resulted in the military having to go on to the streets when the threat level was critical, because there were too few armed police officers. The Conservatives should not come here and lecture us on policing, given their track record in England and Wales.

I turn to issues raised by other members. Some constructive contributions have been made, in contrast to the childish point scoring that we have had from the Conservative Party. Claire Baker raised the issue of the timeframe for taking forward the legislation. Let us keep it in mind that the Scottish Government set out its position on the integration of the BTP into Police Scotland back in 2011. We set it out again in 2013 and in 2014, so it should come as no surprise. In our submission to the Smith commission, we set out that integration was the approach that we wanted to take.

Members have raised concerns about the parliamentary process and how quickly the bill has moved through Parliament. Surprisingly, the convener of the Justice Committee—the committee that scrutinised the bill—described it as a “discredited scrutiny process”. The timeframe for that process is a matter for Parliament; it is not set by us. We introduced the bill to Parliament and it was for the parliamentary committee and the parliamentary process to consider those issues. We have not rushed anything through and, as a minority, we have had to build support for the bill among other parties. Therefore, the idea that we have railroaded through the bill is simply not correct and, given that we have accepted amendments from the Labour Party today, nor is the idea that we are not listening to anyone.

Neil Bibby

The British Transport Police Federation said:

“there has been no acknowledgement of our views or those of the police officers whom we represent, because a simple decision has been taken that there is only one option—that of full integration.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 14 March 2017; c 36-7.]

I will tell the cabinet secretary who he is not listening to—he is not listening to British Transport Police officers, who think that the bill is a huge mistake that will come back to bite the Government.

Michael Matheson

We have set out our policy clearly on the integration of railway policing into Police Scotland, and we have offered a triple lock to staff in the BTP to give them assurance about the future.

One of the key reasons for integrating railway policing into Police Scotland is to create a single command structure. Members have raised issues about how we will deal with counterterrorism matters. Who provided the armed policing at our transport hubs over the past couple of weeks? It was Police Scotland. Who provides the specialist counterterrorism policing in Scotland on our railways? It is Police Scotland, alongside the specialist road policing, airport policing, armed policing, border policing, underwater policing and counterterrorism policing more generally. All of that is delivered in Scotland by Police Scotland. The benefit that we get from an integrated force in Scotland is that we have a single command structure in dealing with such matters. If anything, recent events have demonstrated the benefits of having a single command structure, which gives the ability to respond much more effectively should further such events occur. That is one of the key benefits that will come from delivering integrated policing through the integration of BTP.

The bill will deliver a level of scrutiny and accountability in relation to railway policing that we have never had previously in this country. Now that a cross-party decision has been made to devolve the responsibility, we are creating provisions that will ensure not only that trade unions and others have a say in how railway policing is delivered in Scotland but that the Parliament will have oversight in a way that simply has never happened in the past. That will ensure that railway policing is delivered in a way that we consider to be appropriate for our railways in Scotland.

The bill will deliver more effective and better policing in Scotland and will create a safer Scotland, and I call on all members to support it.

Final vote on the Bill

After the final discussion of the Bill, MSPs vote on whether they think it should become law.

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Final vote transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

There are two questions to be put as a result of today’s business. The first question is, that motion S5M-06356, in the name of Humza Yousaf, on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill at stage 3, be agreed to. I will move straight to a division. Members may cast their votes now.

For

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Southside) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Evans, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Against

Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 68, Against 53, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill be passed.

The Presiding Officer

The final question is, that motion S5M-06278, in the name of Margaret Mitchell, on the appointment of the Scottish Information Commissioner, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament nominates Daren Fitzhenry to Her Majesty The Queen for appointment as the Scottish Information Commissioner under section 42 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill as passed

This Bill was passed on 27 June 2017 and became law on 1 August 2017. 
Find the Act on legislation.gov.uk