Devolution, departures and destinations: reflections on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Act 2017

Kath Murray, Colin Atkinson

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    The Railway Policing (Scotland) Act 2017 (the “2017 Act”) confers railway policing powers on Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (“SPA”), and removes functions in relation to those powers in Scotland from the British Transport Police Authority (“BTPA”) and British Transport Police (“BTP”) constables. Passed by a narrow majority in June 2017 with an agreed commencement (or “go-live”) date of April 2019, the 2017 Act marked the first step in the integration of BTP Scotland into Police Scotland, enabling the programme of work required to deliver full integration, including secondary legislation. The post-legislative programme has however been fraught with difficulty and the 2017 Act has not yet commenced, nor is it clear if it will be commenced. Citing public safety concerns, in February 2018 the then Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, announced integration would be postponed and a detailed “re-planning” process undertaken to establish a new “go-live” date. Six months later, prompted by advice from Police Scotland, the new Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, announced that the Scottish Government would “re-examine all options” with a view to enacting the principles of the devolution of railway policing more quickly, while keeping full integration as the longer-term aim.1 Set against this background, this note argues that the substantial risks and costs associated with full integration represent a material change of circumstances from the Railway Policing Bill as passed, and suggests the Scottish Government should look to repeal the 2017 Act, providing certainty for the officers and staff of BTP Scotland, as well as the wider BTP and BTPA. The note then sets out suggestions for a devolved railway policing model aimed at securing the main benefits of the 2017 Act (greater accountability and more effective railway policing), while taking account of the complex interdependencies that underpin railway policing in practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)130-136
    Number of pages7
    JournalEdinburgh Law Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2019


    • Railway policing
    • Scotland
    • Law


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