Almost two thirds of British Transport Police (BTP) officers and staff in Scotland have considered leaving their job because of the planned merger with the national force, new research has found.
The study, published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), also found 83% were either quite or very unsupportive of plans to integrate into Police Scotland.
The findings were released just a day after it was confirmed the controversial merger – due to take place in April 2019 – has been delayed indefinitely.
Police Scotland said “unresolved issues” meant that integration cannot be completed by the deadline “without compromising public safety”.
Just published: @TheSCCJR briefing on the BTP Leaving Home research project by @DrColinAtkinson and myself. The study looks at the impact of integration on BTP Scotland officers, staff and specials. It is clear that for many, the impact is huge.https://t.co/M2HS4SPiT3— Dr Kath Murray (@kathmurray1) February 21, 2018
Critics of the plans have previously cited safety issues as one of their main concerns, alongside a “lack of a business case” from ministers.
Despite opposition, legislation for the merger was narrowly passed at Holyrood last year, with the Scottish Government insisting it would make transport policing more accountable.
The SCCJR study, which earlier this month surveyed 66% of those working for BTP in Scotland, uncovered a “deep strain of scepticism, cynicism and opposition” towards the move.
Factors included ongoing uncertainty over terms, conditions and pensions, as well as stress and low morale related to the merger.
The study also states: “Many respondents viewed the merger as politically or ideologically motivated, citing the lack of a robust business case as evidence.
“Respondents saw very few advantages for the BTP/A (British Transport Police Authority) or railway policing (most saw none) and a range of disadvantages.
“These included a loss of seamless border policing, a greater risk of delays, and financial costs.”
Two-thirds of BTP Scotland officers & staff took part. We found a deep strain of scepticism and opposition towards integration, with 83% either very or quite unsupportive. Nearly two-thirds had given serious thought to leaving because of the merger. pic.twitter.com/zSlCGGLVXc— Dr Kath Murray (@kathmurray1) February 21, 2018
While the majority of respondents opposed the merger, some cited advantages including the greater employment and development opportunities.
Researcher Dr Kath Murray said: “The decision to delay the merger is both sensible and welcome.
“As well as addressing the sizeable practical challenges, the merger will need buy-in from skilled railway officers and staff, which is yet to be secured.
“Our findings point towards a clear need for improved communication with BTP officers and staff about how integration will work in practice, and a better understanding of how the merger is affecting the professional and personal lives of BTP officers and staff.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to a no detriment policy and a triple-lock guarantee to secure the jobs, pay and pensions of railway policing officers and staff in Scotland.
“The integration of railway policing into Police Scotland will provide a single command structure, with seamless access to wider support facilities and specialist resources of the second largest police service in the UK, providing an enhanced service to the rail industry and travelling public.
“The Joint Programme Board overseeing integration have agreed to review the timetable, which will provide all partners with the opportunity to enhance the process of engagement, in particular with officers, staff and their representatives on key issues such as terms and conditions of service.”