JUST eight per cent of British Transport Police members in Scotland support its merger with Police Scotland, new research shows.

Officers and staff were surveyed for a paper published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) today.

Five per cent of respondents said they were "very supportive" of the change and three per cent were "quite supportive".

In contrast, 72 per cent were "very unsupportive" and 12 per cent were "quite unsupportive", with the remaining ten per cent unsure.

And 66 per cent said they had considered quitting policing altogether as a result of the plan, which the Scottish Government says will deliver a more "efficient and effective" service.

Yesterday it emerged that the April 1 2019 target for the merger will now be missed to allow for further work with the Transport Police Federation on issues including pay and conditions.

Police Scotland said sticking to the deadline would mean "compromising public safety", but Justice Secretary Michael Matheson conceded the postponement is "disappointing".

A revised merger date has not been confirmed.

But the findings of the British Transport Police Leaving Home project, suggest most of those employed in D Division, which covers Scotland, would prefer the integration was called off completely.

Respondents identified "very few advantages" for railway policing and "most saw none", with cited disadvantages including "a loss of seamless border policing, a greater risk of delays and financial costs".

Potential plus-sides included greater career development opportunities, but some said they were "anxious" about their future.

The report states: "In relation to BTP officers and staff, the findings raise serious questions about the failure of Scottish Government to build consensus or secure buy-in from those whose skills and experience are fundamental to successful integration.

"More broadly, the findings suggest that any gains in Scotland are likely to be secured at the expense of railway policing across the UK, and at a significant personal and professional cost to many BTP officers and staff in Scotland.

"These observations are underscored by the fact that many respondents were broadly positive about their current roles and working relationships. In addition to the various strategic and operational objections, it is arguably this sense of unfairness that continues to be damaging in terms of policy legitimacy and helps to explain the strength of negative feeling towards integration."

The survey, taken by more than 180 people, was conducted by Dr Kath Murray of Edinburgh University and Dr Colin Atkinson of the University of the West of Scotland.

Murray said: “We asked how well-informed people felt about the merger and found that eight in ten had received limited or very little information. This lack of certainty, coupled with some respondent’s attachment to their current role and work relationships, helps to explain some of the scepticism and opposition towards integration.

"The 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 people’s professional and personal lives.”

Labour justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson has called the merger "foolish and misguided" and his Tory counterpart Liam Kerr said: "It's an unpopular move that virtually nobody is in favour of, with ideology and dogma seemingly the motive."

However, the Scottish Government says it is "working closely" with the BTP Federation and Matheson stated: "The benefits of a single command structure and improved access to the full range of capabilities of Police Scotland will be delivered for railway policing, providing an enhanced service to both the rail industry and travelling public."