Consultation analysis report on the integration of BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland

An independent analysis of the consultation responses on the integration of British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland into Police Scotland.

1. Executive Summary

1.1 The British Transport Police ( BTP) was established by the UK Government's Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 to provide a railway police service across the UK. The Scotland Act 2016 gave effect to the recommendation of the Smith Commission [1] that the policing of railways and rail property in Scotland should be a devolved matter.

1.2 Scottish Ministers intend to use these powers to integrate BTP officers and civilian staff into Police Scotland and wish to hear the views of key stakeholders on the best way to do this.

1.3 The Scottish Government published a written consultation document on 29 June 2016 inviting views by 24 August 2016 on how to ensure a smooth transition to integration; how to ensure railway policing in Scotland is subject to appropriate oversight; and how to maintain railway policing as a specialism.

1.4 137 responses to the consultation were received, 107 from individuals and 30 from organisations. A summary of the views they contained follows.

Views on integration and current accountability

1.5 The Scottish Government believes that a specialist railway policing function within Police Scotland would ensure that railway policing in Scotland is accountable, through the Chief Constable and the Scottish Police Authority ( SPA), to the people of Scotland; building on the skills, knowledge and experience of the BTP; and enhancing railway policing in Scotland through direct access to the local, specialist and national resources of Police Scotland. Respondents were asked for their views on how to ensure the potential benefits of greater accountability and integration are delivered within the wider policing of Scotland's transport infrastructure.

1.6 The current levels of accountability of BTP in Scotland were highly valued by the rail industry, rail operators and passengers alike. Respondents recommended building on what has been achieved rather than re-inventing new approaches.

1.7 There was much opposition, however, from individuals and organisations, to the proposal to change the current status and integrate BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland. Many considered that a strong case for integration had not been made. This opposition underpinned their responses to questions throughout the consultation, with many respondents providing constructive ideas for making the most of integration, but persistently noting their opposition to the proposal to integrate.

1.8 Key concerns raised were that the breaking up of a BTP-wide service would impact negatively on cross-border services; would reduce competence in tackling major UK issues such as terrorism; would reduce safety of rail passengers and staff with possible reduction in officer posts; would increase costs for train operators; and would hamper career development and progression between transport police in Scotland and the north of England in particular.

1.9 Constructive ideas were put forward for new lines of accountability including: establishing a new Board or Committee to which Police Scotland could be held accountable for railway policing; retaining the BTP as a separate body but the commander of the service in Scotland being answerable to Police Scotland; and collaborative setting of objectives between the BTP in Scotland and Police Scotland.

1.10 Despite the prevailing opposition to integration, several potential benefits were identified including: reduction in emergency response times to remote areas; better value for money due to rationalisation of shared support services; greater transparency in accountability with the SPA perceived as more accessible than the British Transport Police Authority ( BTPA); more meaningful local scrutiny and accountability alongside national level accountability; and opportunity for the work of the transport police to impact on wider policies such as hate crime.

Views on ensuring skills of BTP officers are retained

1.11 There was widespread agreement that BTP officers have specialist skills. An overarching view was that the specialism of the BTP should be respected, acknowledged and retained in any integration with Police Scotland.

1.12 Mixed views emerged amongst individual respondents on whether the railway policing specialism should be broadened to a wider transport policy function.

1.13 A common concern was that the specialism of BTP could be diluted by BTP being subsumed within the larger Police Scotland body. Suggestions were made as to how to retain the specialism of BTP following integration: establishing a specialist BTP Division within Police Scotland; maintaining the numbers of BTP officers, possibly with ring-fencing of funding; and retaining the specialist nature of BTP training.

Views on governance and setting policy

1.14 At present, strategic rail planning is carried out at a UK level on a five-year cycle determined by the Office of Rail and Road. The BTPA oversees the BTP, setting its priorities and allocation of funding. It is appointed by and accountable to the UK Government's Secretary of State for Transport. The Scottish Government proposes that, following integration, the SPA would become responsible for ensuring that railway policing priorities and included in its Strategic Police Plan. These priorities would be set by the SPA following engagement with the railway industry in Scotland.

1.15 A commonly held view amongst respondents was that the experience of the BTP would be invaluable in providing a steer towards effective practice going forward.

1.16 Several industry and representative bodies shared the view that the SPA should align its objectives relating to railway policing, with those of the BTPA.

1.17 The proposal to establish a Board or Committee in Scotland with members appointed by Ministers and including representatives with specialist railway knowledge gained support from different sectors. It was envisaged that SPA would submit its policy proposals to this Board for approval.

Views on engaging with stakeholders

1.18 There was much appreciation of what respondents perceived to be the current strong links between the BTP and the rail industry. Recommendations were for these links to continue following integration and to be transparent in order to instil confidence in the travelling public.

1.19 Both formal and informal approaches to engagement between the SPA and stakeholders were called for. These included formal, regular meetings with Train Operating Companies, Freight Operating Companies and Rail Staff Associations, in addition to public consultations, online and face-to-face engagement with passengers and their representative bodies, making use of social media where appropriate.

Views on the future funding mechanism

1.20 The BTP in Scotland is currently funded through contributions from the railway industry, whereby Network Rail, Train and Freight Operating Companies enter into a Police Services Agreement ( PSA) with the BTPA in terms of which they pay for the core policing services they receive. The exact costs payable under each PSA are calculated through a model based on a number of factors such as staffing levels and crime levels. The Scottish Government believes that this model could not be replicated easily in Scotland, largely due to the domination of a single franchise, Scotrail. Respondents were asked for views on possible amendments to the current cost allocation regime.

1.21 Common views were that the mechanism for funding the BTP following integration into Police Scotland should be fair; avoid trying to cost-cut; be transparent; consistent over budgeting years to avoid uncertainty; take account of local circumstances with regard to PSAs; and be established as a priority.

1.22 Front-end costs associated with integration (such as new vehicles and uniform) were anticipated with recommendations that these be budgeted for.

1.23 A key concern was how the future funding mechanism could accommodate cross-border franchises such as the Caledonian Sleeper. Another concern related to potential increased costs of PSAs in England and Wales due to the need to sustain the viability of some services put at threat as a result of integration.

1.24 A dominant theme was that the current PSAs had been subject to extensive collaborative work between the BTPA and the rail industry and any proposed revisions to these should be also subject to scrutiny by key stakeholders.

1.25 Key recommendations for what should be included in a revised PSA were: a commitment to maintaining at least the current levels of railway police; and that policing of railways should be undertaken by specialist railway police officers.

Views on the BTP workforce

1.26 It is Scottish Government policy that staff transferring within the public sector should do so as far as possible without detriment. As well as engaging with BTPA, BTP, Police Scotland and the SPA, the Government intends to engage early with officer and staff associations and representatives in order to provide clarity and reassurance as to the implications of transfer for existing terms and conditions.

1.27 Respondents were asked for their views on the proposals for BTP officers and staff transferring to Police Scotland and on the timing of the negotiations over terms and conditions. Two key options were: negotiation and agreement with officers, staff and their representative associations over the terms on which transfer will occur; or transferring on existing terms and conditions and retaining these for existing officers with a view to harmonising these in due course.

1.28 Majority views against harmonisation of terms and conditions of existing BTP officers and staff included: there should be no detriment to terms and conditions; staff joined BTP and not Police Scotland; BTP officers throughout the UK should have the same terms and conditions; BTP officers have not been consulted on integration and have not agreed to this; harmonisation will result in lowered morale amongst BTP officers; TUPE regulations ensure no officer should suffer loss of terms and conditions.

1.29 In contrast, a minority of respondents recommended harmonisation of terms and conditions to avoid what they envisaged as a "two-tier" system of terms and conditions within one police force.

Views on the timing of negotiating terms and conditions

1.30 The prevailing view was that engagement over terms and conditions should start early to limit uncertainty and insecurity amongst current BTP officers in Scotland.

1.31 There were contrasting views over whether agreement over terms and conditions should be achieved prior to integration or whether these should continue during and post-integration in order to avoid rushing important decisions.

Views on points to consider when discussing the future of BTP pensions post-integration

1.32 The issue of pensions for BTP staff following integration with Police Scotland was considered of high importance by respondents. Timeliness in providing clarity on pension arrangements was highlighted as key.

1.33 The predominant view across sectors was that current BTP officers integrated into Police Scotland should retain their existing pension rights and arrangements.

1.34 Reasons to support retention of existing pension rights included: officers joined the BTP and not Police Scotland; this would provide parity with contemporaries in England and Wales; BTP provide a specialist service deserving of a special pension; integration was not chosen by these officers; changing pension entitlement will impact negatively on morale; BTP officers may choose to leave Scotland if their pensions are altered; only a small number of staff are affected and it would cause less disruption to let them retain their conditions until retirement; and on previous occasions where there has been change, pensions have been protected.

1.35 Minority views were that pensions should be harmonised to ensure comparability with Police Scotland officers and to contain the costs of providing BTP pensions.

Views on impact of integration

1.36 In integrating the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland the public sector equality duty requires the Scottish Government to pay due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, victimisation, harassment or other unlawful conduct that is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010; advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic. The protected characteristics are: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; and sex and sexual orientation.

1.37 Respondents were asked to identify any likely impacts the proposals contained in the consultation may have on particular groups of people with reference to the protected characteristics.

1.38 A common view was that the travelling public and the railway workforce could be impacted negatively as a result of integration if railway policing levels diminish. Some felt that this would impact particularly on vulnerable groups. Concerns were that there may be an increase in hate crime particularly on cross-border services late at night.

1.39 Lower levels of specialist BTP officers were also identified as potentially impacting on people with mental health issues who may be at higher risk of suicide on the railway network without more support.

1.40 Potential additional costs for Police Scotland were envisaged as a result of integration, in particular: initial costs of re-branding and purchase of new equipment and uniforms; maintenance of BTP pensions; and provision of specialist training for railway policing.

1.41 Potential additional costs for the rail industry were identified: dealing with an increase in crime due to lower levels of railway policing; putting in place private security arrangements; more business interruption due to slower response times to incidents; and loss of customers to other forms of transport.

1.42 A few respondents highlighted data protection issues which would need to be addressed in the transfer of personal information on staff and incidents from BTP to Police Scotland.

1.43 Minimal environmental impacts were envisaged as a result of the merger.


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