One highlight of the 120th Scottish Trade Union Congress held in Aviemore in April was a motion calling on the SNP government to halt the splitting up of British Transport Police along separatist lines. This was proposed with clarity and passion by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, backed by both Aslef and RMT.
A Bill to merge British Transport Police Scotland with Police Scotland was published in December 2016. It immediately ran into stiff opposition. As the TSSA pointed out “it flies in the face of serious misgivings by trade unions, BTP officers and staff, railway workers and many other groups and individuals.”
The TSSA motion said the proposal would hinder cross-border railway policing, making evidence gathering and witness interviewing much more difficult. Important railway related skills and experience would be lost. It would also “undermine the relationships that railway workers and their employers have with BTP and which are the bedrock of Operation Alert, the anti-terrorist initiative in the industry.”
Following the suicide bombing in Manchester in May TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes demanded of the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, and her transport minister that they “halt the break-up of British Transport Police, in the interests of passenger safety on both sides of the border.”
Cortes continued, “If the plan to devolve BTP into Police Scotland is not given a stay of execution before the bill goes before Holyrood, far from protecting policing in Scotland, the SNP will be responsible for snuffing it out.”
In January TSSA said that the merger would cause lasting damage to rail security and would jeopardise lives and pointed out that no one involved in the rail industry wants the merger. BTP Deputy Chief Constable, Adrian Hancock, said it “would create an unnecessary border for officers".
This attempt to reinforce separatism now looks like it is stalling. The SNP finds itself further isolated on the issue following their reversals in the recent elections.