Home World Nicola Sturgeon blames Boris Johnson for industrial dispute on Scotland’s renationalised trains

Nicola Sturgeon blames Boris Johnson for industrial dispute on Scotland’s renationalised trains

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Nicola Sturgeon tried to blame Boris Johnson today for an industrial dispute on Scotland’s newly renationalised rail network that will see hundreds of services cancelled every day from next week.    

ScotRail, which was taken back into public ownership last month, has announced it will cut 700 services – almost a third of the total – from Monday due to a driver shortage caused by a disagreement with the union Aslef.

The new timetable has been sparked by drivers refusing to work on rest days and Sundays, measures which had been used to keep the service running. 

Addressing MSPs at Holyroods today Ms Sturgeon insisted that the new schedule was ‘temporary, before admitting that a shortage of more than 100 drivers might not be filled before next year. 

But the SNP administration attempted to shift responsibility for the situation onto Mr Johnson and Westminster, despite Ms Sturgeon being in overall charge of the company. 

The SNP’s Fiona Hyslop caused uproar at First Ministers Questions when she asked Ms Sturgeon if she shared ‘my concern that events elsewhere in the UK are souring industrial relations here in Scotland and affecting the new beginning of public ownership of Scotland’s railway’.

After the furore died down, Ms Sturgeon replied: ‘The situation in Scotland is the responsibility of ScotRail, which of course is now a publicly owned company, so therefore my responsibility and the responsibility of the Government.

‘But the Conservatives should be aware there is a separate RMT dispute right now with Network Rail and UK Dft (Department for Transport) operators.

‘That is a reserved matter but if it is not resolved it will have an impact on services here in Scotland. Perhaps some advice to their own party as well might not go amiss.’

Nicola Sturgeon tried to blame Boris Johnson today for an industrial dispute on Scotland's newly renationalised rail network that will see hundreds of services cancelled every day from next week.

Nicola Sturgeon tried to blame Boris Johnson today for an industrial dispute on Scotland’s newly renationalised rail network that will see hundreds of services cancelled every day from next week.

ScotRail, which was taken back into public ownership last month, has announced it will cut 700 services from Monday in response to a driver shortage caused by a disagreement with the union Aslef.

ScotRail, which was taken back into public ownership last month, has announced it will cut 700 services from Monday in response to a driver shortage caused by a disagreement with the union Aslef.

The SNP's Fiona Hyslop caused uproar at First Ministers Questions when she asked Ms Sturgeon if she shared 'my concern that events elsewhere in the UK are souring industrial relations here in Scotland and affecting the new beginning of public ownership of Scotland’s railway'.

The SNP’s Fiona Hyslop caused uproar at First Ministers Questions when she asked Ms Sturgeon if she shared ‘my concern that events elsewhere in the UK are souring industrial relations here in Scotland and affecting the new beginning of public ownership of Scotland’s railway’.

Facing questions on the matter at Holyrood, the First Minister stressed the importance of ensuring services return to normal as quickly as possible and branded it ‘regrettable’.

But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘You call this regrettable, say that to the people in Dunbar who will have zero trains operated by ScotRail stopping at their station.

‘Say that to the business leaders who are telling you these cuts are going to put at risk thousands of jobs and small businesses.

‘Let’s remember, Nicola Sturgeon and her Government are in charge of Scotland’s railways.

‘Just seven weeks into nationalisation, it’s already proving a disaster.’

Anas Sarwar said the Scottish Government has ‘chased the headline’ but ‘won’t do the work’ when it comes to ScotRail.

The Scottish Labour leader challenged the First Minister on her reaction to service cuts of 40 trains per day back in 2018, which she said were ‘not good enough’.

He said that since 2020, ScotRail services have seen a decrease of almost 1,000 a day.

Mr Sarwar said: ‘For once, Nicola Sturgeon has got nobody else to blame.

‘Why are 40 cuts a day when someone else is in charge not good enough, but cutting 1,000 services a day, in the words of the rail minister, ‘a stable and reliable service’?’

He added: ‘Yet again, the SNP chased the headline, but won’t do the work. Maybe they should employ fewer spin doctors and more train drivers.’

Aslef Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay said in a statement after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday: ‘ScotRail and the Scottish Government have handled this situation appallingly.

‘Nicola Sturgeon has to recognise that the pay dispute can only be settled with a resumption of immediate talks.

‘We need a fair pay deal and there must also be a clear and proactive plan to recruit more drivers.

‘Aslef stands ready to resume talks with the company anytime, anywhere, any place.

‘We have said this from day one and today we repeat that call. Relying on drivers to work rest days is no way to run a 21st-century railway.

‘This situation will not be resolved if ScotRail fails to engage in meaningful talks.’

The Night Time Industries Association said the timetable changes are a ‘cruel blow’ for hospitality businesses.

A spokesman said: ‘These devastating cuts to rail services will leave commuters rushing to catch early trains home and prevent ordinary people across Scotland from travelling in to our towns and cities during the evenings.

‘Such cuts to services, even temporarily, is yet another cruel blow for Scotland’s hard-pressed night-time economy and cultural sector which are yet to recover from the pandemic.

‘With these beleaguered industries facing an extremely challenging start to 2022, this news presents considerable concerns both around economic and employment impacts, and of course over the safety of customers and staff travelling home safely at night.’

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