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Yousaf admits plans to merge transport police into main force may never happen

UNPOPULAR plans to merge transport policing north of the border into the main Scottish force suffered another blow today when Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf admitted they might never go ahead.

Mr Yousaf said that while the Scottish government still sees some benefits in fully integrating the two forces, ministers would “have to look again at whether the legislation would be commenced or not.”

The Scottish Parliament passed the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill in June, despite criticism from opposition parties, rail unions and others.

The merger was originally due to take place in April 2019, but the timetable was delayed.

Police Scotland is currently unable to give a “definitive date” for when the merger could take place, Mr Yousaf told MSPs on Holyrood’s justice committee today.

The SNP minister said: “The commencement of the act is something I keep under review. I am not closed-minded on that point. But I still continue to say from a Scottish government point of view we still see some benefits in full integration.”

He admitted he was disappointed the merger had to be put on hold, saying: “I see the benefits of full integration, seamless policing, that single command structure, I see those benefits.”

He indicated that it could be several years before the merger takes place.

Pressed on the timing for this, Mr Yousaf said: “Many people” regarded the 10-year Policing 2026 strategy as being “the natural dovetail of full integration.”

He added: “I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.”

But he stressed merging the two forces was “not where my focus is at the moment.”

Rail unions, which organise among civilian grades in the British Transport Police, have pointed to problems in aligning IT systems, pension arrangements, career development plans and terms and conditions.

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