21 Feb 2018

83% of British Transport Police Unsupportive of Merger with Police Scotland


New research has found the majority (83%) of British Transport Police officers and staff in Scotland are either quite or very unsupportive of plans to integrate their division into Police Scotland.

The findings come from the British Transport Police Leaving Home project which investigates the impact of integration on BTP D Division officers and staff based in Scotland, and explores issues of organisational identity, community, and attachment.

The survey, conducted by researchers Dr Kath Murray (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Colin Atkinson (University of the West of Scotland) and published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, also found that around two-thirds (64%) said they had given serious consideration to leaving policing because of the merger.

Many respondents highlighted ongoing uncertainty about the merger, while some reported feelings of stress and low morale.

More positively, many respondents thought that the move to Police Scotland could provide greater development opportunities, although it was not clear whether this would adversely affect officers’ terms and conditions.

In November 2014 the Smith Commission recommended that the functions of the BTP in Scotland should be a devolved matter. It was expected that railway policing in Scotland will transfer to Police Scotland in April 2019, under the Railway Policing (Scotland) Act 2017, however, the Joint Programme Board which oversees the merger agreed to extend the timetable yesterday (Tues 20th).

One respondent told researchers: “The merger provides an additional strain on an already stretched service and more transformation at an already turbulent time within [Police Scotland’s] short history.”

Another clear finding from the survey was the sense of pride and attachment that many BTP officers and staff felt about their current work in Scotland. Over eight out of ten (82%) respondents indicated that they felt proud to work for the BTP, while 80% enjoyed positive relationships with their work peers.

One participant said: “My line manager and colleagues have a great team spirit, we all support each other and other colleagues in the BTP, we have a well-run department which we have all worked hard to achieve. I enjoy my work immensely and it is going to be taken from us.”

Despite having broadly positive working relationships, a number of those surveyed said morale had been affected because of a lack of information about the merger.

“The uncertainty has left me feeling anxious and unprepared for my future,” wrote one respondent.

Dr Kath Murray, a research associate based at the University of Edinburgh, 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.”

Participants answered a series of multiple-choice questions about their background, service history and experience, views on the BTP, and the merger itself. Additionally, participants were asked, using open-ended questions, for their views on integration, including the advantages and disadvantages for themselves, their colleagues, the BTP/A, and Police Scotland.

The survey was carried out between 6 and 16 February 2018. 182 officers, staff and special constables took part, with an overall response rate of 66%.

Dr Colin Atkinson said: “The survey provides a robust and independent snapshot of the current attitudes of BTP officers and staff towards the issue of integration. We will be exploring these issues further in the next stage of our research, with a full report published this summer. Our findings to date, however, should prompt further discussion and debate on ways to address the concerns and experiences of those officers and staff at the frontline of this process.”



Press Contact:

Rachelle Cobain, Communications Officer, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR),
M: 077525 88406

Notes to Editors:

1. The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) is a collaboration of four Scottish Universities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Strathclyde). We work with government and communities, academics and individuals to develop and produce research that critically informs policy and practice in Scotland and internationally, and that advances our understanding of the meaning and practice of justice. For more information visit our website
2. Briefing Paper: The impact of the transfer of British Transport Police (BTP) D Division into Police Scotland on officers and staff by Dr Kath Murray (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Colin Atkinson (University of West of Scotland) is now available to download from the SCCJR website.
3. The Joint Programme Board overseeing the integration of British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland into Police Scotland agreed to review the timetable on Tues 20 February. Please see the Scottish Government’s press release for more information.