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Specialised railway policing put at risk by Scottish Government

06 September, 2016

British Transport
Police Federation
November 18, 2016

Latest update on plans for policing in Scotland (Nov 2016)



November saw us return to St Andrew's House in Edinburgh to continue discussions with Scottish Government officials and advisors on the proposed integration of BTP Scotland into Police Scotland.

These meetings offer an opportunity to share views, and yet each time we come away with a sickening sense of genuine disappointment that yet again no real detail is provided especially around the most important elements for our members (i.e. pensions, T&Cs). Members in Scotland deserve a degree of certainty around their career and financial future.

In terms of the legislation and timescales, Ministers are currently considering draft legislation: The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill. This 'enabling bill' is, in effect, stage one of the process and allows for the integration to take place. This would be followed by secondary legislation giving powers to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland to manage rail policing along with powers of entry. This second stage is where T&Cs, pensions and so on, would be dealt with. There is no exact date yet for when it will be laid at Parliament, but it is programmed for the current legislative year i.e. prior to June 2017.

The discussions arising from this meeting threw up three areas of particular interest for members:

Consultation
Having been told we would have sight of the consultation report by the end of October, we expressed our disappointment that it wasn't tabled at this meeting. The responses have gone to an independent analyst and a report is being prepared for Ministers. Responses will be published on the Consultation Hub website 'soon' and as soon as these are on the site, we will of course share the link.

What we do know is that there were 137 responses to the consultation (including ours, which you can read in full here) and of those 107 came from individuals. Some 27% agreed their responses could be published and a further 45% agreed to them being published anonymously. Most respondents were not in favour of the integration.

Of the three options for the future of policing in Scotland, it is clear only Option 1 (full integration) is being discussed. No evidence or business case has been forthcoming around why consideration is being given to only one option. The current model for railway policing in Scotland has a proven track record and having listened to what little was given around the recent consultation responses it is clear that the current model is not being challenged outside of the Scottish Government. On the 6th December we are meeting with both the Transport Minister and Justice Minister in Scotland and will again seek both the business case behind the decision, and the reasons why Option 1 is the sole focus at the exclusion of the other two.

Pensions
The civil servant leading on pensions matters has met with RPMI and actuaries are now doing detailed work on the costings, including affordability. It is their intention to put a proposal to the pension fund trustees to consider by the end of this year. There is currently no real steer on the detail but we are told this will form an integral part of the stage two debate in parliament. They are still working on the basis of 'no detriment' to BTP officers.

The level of importance around this matter alone was made abundantly clear to the government lead on pensions, in both this most recent meeting and the recent justice committee discussions all parties were left in no uncertain terms as to the importance of members in Scotland having future financial securities and that it is wholly unacceptable for this particular matter to just meander along with little or no detail as to what the most likely option will be.

The federation will continue to work with both RPMI and our own pensions advisers (Mercers) to ensure that should any future transition take place the matter of pensions security will be first and foremost in any terms and conditions package moving forward.

Our People
The 'Workforce' project team (which is working through the T&Cs) is up and running, and two meetings have taken place so far. The message is very much 'the post isn't going, the job isn't going - it's just a change of employer' but we feel that is too simple a view. That said, they are working from a position of maintaining current T&Cs for BTP officers. The potential for creating a situation whereby officers working together would have different pay and pensions doesn't appear to be of great concern; allegedly this is already the case in Police Scotland.

During the meeting we heard from T/Supt Mark Anderson, of Police Scotland's Operations and Justice Division, and project lead for the integration. While they are still scoping the project, the view is that BTP would become a protected special division within the force, much like Firearms, or the Dog Section.

The term 'Grandfather Rights' was quoted by ACC Higgins at the recent Justice Committee discussions in the parliament. It has been suggested that this will offer full protected rights for officers making the transition. You might think at this stage "wow" but as we all know the devil is very much in the detail and the devil in this case could well be for a period of 12 months. Alas grandfather, that is not an acceptable position for our members in Scotland!

There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to reach the best possible outcome for our members. These regular meetings with Scottish Government officials are a vital part of the process and we will tell you what we can, when we can. We're here to answer any questions you may have and listen to your concerns so please contact Darren.townsend@btpfed.co.uk if there is anything you would like to discuss.

Respectfully
Darren Townsend (General Secretary)
BTP Federation