Policing the railway in Scotland

23 January 2015

The British Transport Police, under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, are responsible for railway policing throughout Great Britain. Proposals by the Smith Commission ‘will devolve legislative competence in relation to railway policing in Scotland.’

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, says: ‘Government proposals in “Scotland in the United Kingdom: An Enduring Settlement” will devolve the functions of the British Transport Police. We are concerned that the BTP’s expertise in dealing with rail specific policing issues will be undermined if it is subsumed into a large organisation which could result in it becoming a small and inefficient branch of Police Scotland.

‘ASLEF believes the railways are a specialised environment with specialised needs which require a specialist force. We take the view that the national railway network should be policed by one force providing a dedicated service able to give due priority tothe policing of the railways. The safety and security requirements on the railway demand no less. This is an issue which unites train operating companies, trade unions and passengers. Senior figures in the force itself also strongly oppose the move.

‘In the event that powers for policing are devolved – and it is a complicated issue on cross-border trains – then we believe that the new and separate Transport Police force in Scotland should remain independent of Police Scotland so it has a separate, and significant, voice for its distinctive role.’

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