Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP today said the SNP Government must halt the absorption of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland and ask an independent Commission to consider reforms after a series of reports today shed further light on the troubles facing the police.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland reported that there still isn't a "detailed and authoritative business case" setting out benefits, drawbacks, risks and costs associated with the transfer of railway policing, despite SNP ministers already passing the legislation. Furthermore, it isn't clear where the funding for the integration will come from and what will happen to BTP officers' and staff's terms, conditions and pensions.
Meanwhile, the Auditor General said today that there have been "a number of instances of poor governance and poor use of public money" in the SPA and Police Scotland.
It said realising the Policing 2026 vision will be "immensely challenging" given the scale of change required, financial and IT issues, the integration of the BTP and the instability created by leadership changes. It is also predicted that there will be a £47 million budget deficit this year, followed by overspends of £36 million and £16 million in the following years. The national force will only balance the books in 2020/21 before likely going back into the red again.
Liam McArthur commented:
"The reports today show how the police have been plagued by poor decision making by those at the top of the force and SNP ministers. The fact that this has been the case since day one shows it is systemic. Given how many critical issues are currently on the desks of top brass, we can't afford for this to be brushed off.
"The reports today confirm there has been shoddy planning for the integration of the British Transport Police, highly questionable procedures for hiring senior figures and making payments to them, and an enduring black hole in the police's budget.
"Bad decisions are costing police officers, staff and the public they serve.
"This week the SNP Government rejected constructive Liberal Democrat calls for an expert independent commission to help get the police back on track. Instead of spending their time belittling very real concerns, the responsible thing for the SNP Government to do is to put the merger of the British Transport Police on hold and accept that a Commission would help equip the national force to deal with the huge decisions it faces.
"Given that ministers and the ineffective policing structures have presided over this mess, it is blindingly obvious that they alone can't solve it."