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Save BTP

There was a time when it seemed every institution, organisation or utility had the word British in its title.

British Gas, British Steel, British Telecom, British Rail, British Broadcasting Company, British Airways, the list was endless.

Over the years, the change in ownership or rebranding of these fixtures in public life has often seen the word British replaced or dropped to a simple ‘B’ in a snappy acronym, like BA.

There is a theory that the erosion of the word in our national institutions has contributed to a loss of British identity.

Whether this is actually the case is impossible to say but it’s obviously something the SNP believe. Why else would they be dismantling the Scottish division of the British Transport Police against a wealth of evidence?

The Scottish Parliament has always had control over both transport and policing but BTP and its complex structure originally remained under the auspices of the UK Transport Secretary.

With its unique role in ensuring safety on trains crossing the border and its anti-terror responsibilities, it made sense to keep it intact.

The post referendum Smith Commission proposed devolving accountability of its functions to the Scottish Parliament and in the summer the SNP Government has passed a bill to absorb it into the beleaguered Police Scotland.

The legislation failed to get all party support and only SNP and Green MSPs voted in favour of it.

When the merger is finalised, the railway policing division in Scotland will be fractured from the rest of the UK and controlled by Police Scotland by 2019, with all of the cross-border issues this will cause.

The police watchdog scrutinising the policy have insisted that the government has failed to make a business case for the changes and staff have expressed serious concerns about the merger.

As a result, the Scottish Government has been accused of pushing through the reforms on purely ideological grounds. Leading campaigner George Foulkes has now secured a debate in the House of Lords about the issue on January 10th and we look forward to hearing the issues around this aired.

We can be sure of this – the United Kingdom will endure no matter what the SNP try to call the British Transport Police.

The term British in an organisation’s title has always stood as a kitemark for quality, such as the BBC. With this wrong-headed merger, it’s those high standards the SNP Government is putting at risk by forcing through this unnecessary change.

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