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18th March 2015

Scottish Labour's Candidate in the Far North, John Erskine, has slammed SNP plans from Michael Matheson, the SNP Government's Cabinet Secretary for Justice to wind up the British Transport Police.

The Minister announced today last week that Police Scotland will take over railway policing when the function is devolved. The move means that the British Transport Police (BTP) will no longer operate as a separate force in Scotland.

BTP wanted to continue providing this service, with oversight by Holyrood instead of Westminster but Mr Matheson wants the force's Scottish operations and more than 200 officers integrated into Police Scotland.

In a statement, the Scottish government said: "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 announcement has been criticised by local Labour candidate John Erskine, who said: "Thanks to the SNP obsession with the centralisation ,the Highlands has lost out and seen the loss of local accountability. Nothing demonstrates this more than Police Scotland and the mistakes that have been made of arming the police. Yet this SNP attempt to scrap BTP shows they have learnt nothing. The Smith Agreement rightly agreed that the functions of the British Transport Police should be devolved with accountability to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. We did not agree to the BTP being scrapped and services being delivered by Police Scotland. The SNP wont stand up for the far north - they only stand for centralisation of services."

"Dissolving the BTP into Police Scotland is yet another attempt to centralise services and reduce accountability. BTP has a proud history and a reputation for effective policing. Funding is provided by the rail operators and it works seamlessly across jurisdictions. The SNP Government seems to be obsessed with power rather than looking at what's best for rail passengers.

“We have been given no guarantees on funding, legal jurisdiction on cross-border journeys or any guarantees about staffing and service levels on trains. Instead the SNP wants to wind up BTP and create an even bigger Police Scotland.

“We have already witnessed rising complaints about the lack of accountability of Police Scotland and the way policies are being developed and delivered.

“The SNP Government is trying to pull a fast one. The UK Government must resist any change until there are binding guarantees on funding, structures and accountability."

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