SNP's row with LNER over social distancing on cross-border trains was about creating division with England, not public health – Brian Wilson

Last week, I wondered if the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, still existed in the light of his anonymity over urgent matters for which he is paid to take responsibility.

An LNER Azuma train crosses the Forth Bridge (Picture: Euan Cherry/PA)
An LNER Azuma train crosses the Forth Bridge (Picture: Euan Cherry/PA)

Collapsing ferry services on the west coast… striking air traffic controllers in the Highlands and Islands… pot-holes multiplied by a factor of five… The nation waited anxiously to hear from Mr Matheson.

However, when he finally emerged, it was not to address any of these matters but to attack the operators of the East Coast Main Line for not enforcing Scottish social distancing rules north of Berwick, in spite of his own civil servants (aka Transport Scotland) having agreed to this approach.

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From personal experience, I know that no social distancing has been enforced for months on ScotRail trains for which Mr Matheson has responsibility. Neither is it enforced on flights between Scotland and England

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So why, out of all Scotland’s transport issues, was this the one upon which Mr Matheson alighted?

The answer is that this was not a transport or public health issue at all – but a metaphor for the truly pathetic level at which the government of Scotland operates. It is only interested in anything where division can be sown, or grievance found, in relations with England.

Meanwhile, still more ferries are breaking down. Local economies are being devastated. Highlands and Islands Airports is still a rogue quango. The pot-holes are still multiplying…

Where are you, Mr Matheson? Carrying out inspections on a cross-border train?

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