In 2013, the merging of 10 policing bodies to establish Police Scotland represented a complex and ambitious programme of public sector reform. This was just the start of the journey and we are continuing to reform policing in Scotland, most notably with the ongoing consultation on the Policing 2026 strategy.
Today, the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee published its Stage 1 Report supporting the proposals to integrate British Transport Police Scotland with Police Scotland. As the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill progresses to the next stage in the parliamentary process, moving towards Royal Assent, the SPA is preparing for integration now by working on a framework and associated timeline to support the planned integration in 2019.
Incorporating railway policing into Police Scotland will be a significant undertaking and we know from merging 10 organisations in 2013 that early preparation and engagement with key partners is crucial to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible. That is why the SPA is already working closely with Police Scotland, the British Transport Police (BTP) and the British Transport Police Authority to plan for the merger.
As Chief Executive of the SPA, I am representing the SPA as a member of the Joint Programme Board which includes representation from the Scottish Government, the Department for Transport, BTP, the BTP Authority, Police Scotland and Transport Scotland. I also recently attended a meeting with the transport minister which included railway operators. I have also agreed to Chair regular meetings with the railway operators as we move towards 2019 and I plan to personally engage with the CEO of BTP Authority on at least a monthly basis moving forward. The first of these meetings will take place on 8 May in London. The SPA team itself has met with Strathclyde Passenger Transport and has regular contact with all stakeholders in the programme.
Collectively, the priority will be on maintaining railway policing expertise within the broader Police Scotland structure, ensuring that railway users and staff in Scotland continue to be kept safe, and minimising the impacts of incidents on the operation of the railway network.
Managing this change process will be critical and I would seek to reassure stakeholders and the public that the process will be heavily informed by the lessons we have learned here in Scotland from going through this process just 4 years ago.