Police Scotland will take control of law and order on the railways from British Transport Police (BTP) north of the border, Scotland’s Justice Secretary has announced.
The UK Government has recommended handing the Scottish Parliament legislative competence in relation to railway policing in Scotland under its draft devolution settlement.
Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said BTP’s functions will be transferred to Scotland’s recently-unified single police service.
The Scottish Government said: “We agree with the Smith Commission recommendation that responsibility for the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland should be devolved to the Scottish Government and welcome the draft clause that has been prepared to make this change happen.
“Police Scotland is responsible for all policing in Scotland outwith the railways and we believe the functions of the British Transport Police should be integrated within the single service.
“The BTP provide a specialist function that is recognised and valued by the rail industry and its passengers and it is essential that this specialism is maintained within Police Scotland. This will ensure the most efficient and effective delivery of all policing in Scotland, keeping communities safe and strong.
“The Scottish Government values the officers and staff of the BTP in Scotland and, in so doing, want to provide certainty at this early stage on our intentions post-devolution.
“Over the course of 2015, we will continue to engage with all stakeholders including the BTP, the BTP Authority, the BTP Federation and the rail industry on how this can be most effectively achieved within our national police service.”
Mr Matheson told the BBC: “Police reforms have been taking place in Scotland over the last 18 months, moving to the single force.
“It’s been the Scottish Government’s view that this (transport policing) would be better if it was integrated into Police Scotland, given that it would sit alongside our national police service.
“That’s why we believe this would be a better fit for how we are taking policing forward in Scotland.”
The UK Government’s draft devolution settlement states: “At present, the BTP is responsible under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 for railway policing throughout Great Britain, with oversight provided by the British Transport Police Authority.
“This clause will devolve legislative competence in relation to railway policing in Scotland.
“This change will allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate in relation to the policing of railways in Scotland.”