ScotRail pay dispute: SNP government must intervene amid union threats to turn Edinburgh into a 'ghost town' again – Scotsman comment

During the Covid pandemic, Edinburgh was turned into a “ghost town”. Now a rail union leader is threatening to do the same again, deliberately targeting the Edinburgh Festival over a pay dispute.

RMT Scotland organiser Mick Hogg noted the festival was worth “hundreds of millions of pounds”, adding “to lose out on that would have a massive detrimental impact on the Scottish economy”.

The dispute, which has led to severely reduced train services, is already estimated to be costing the Scottish economy £80 million a week.

So, at a time of a cost-of-living crisis, with energy bills set to soar even further, and the prospect of a devastating “stagflation” recession, trade union leaders are seeking to hold the country to ransom.

And for what? The unions are reportedly making demands for a pay rise of up to 11 per cent, which would take a ScotRail driver’s salary to more than £62,000.

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The representatives of these relatively wealthy people may find themselves the focus of considerable anger if their threats come to fruition.

However, on one point, the unions are correct. The Scottish Government, which owns ScotRail, does need to step in, although not in the way the unions would like.

Nicola Sturgeon needs to act over the damage being done to Scotland's economy by the ScotRail drivers' pay dispute (Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

A huge pay increase for thousands of public sector workers would increase the current inflationary pressures, at a time when rising prices need to be brought under control, and lead to more demands for similar rises from others, potentially creating yet more inflation in a vicious spiral.

Any situation costing the economy £80 million a week has to be a government priority and, if SNP ministers simply wash their hands of it by continuing to insist it is a matter for “arms-length” public company ScotRail, that would be an unforgivable dereliction of duty.

The people caught in the middle of all this, the general public, are sick of “ghost towns”; they are worried about how they are going to pay the bills, about their jobs, their homes and their children’s futures.

If we are to get out of this growing crisis, it will not be by selfishly pursuing our own interests to the detriment of others, but by working together for the common good. The Scottish Government can’t hide from its duty to lead that effort.

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