Ministers urged to ditch their 'chauffeur-driven cars' until ScotRail crisis sorted

Ministers should hand back the keys to their chauffeur-driven cars until they sort out the ScotRail crisis, the leader of Scottish Labour has said.

Anas Sarwar hit out at the lack of replacement bus services after a third of train services were slashed in Scotland.

ScotRail, nationalised in April, cut more than 700 services across the country on Monday due to deadlock discussions with train drivers’ union Aslef.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said negotiations are ongoing to resolve the issues.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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Speaking during First Minister's Questions in Holyrood, Mr Sarwar said: “In the middle of a cost-of-living and climate crisis, this SNP/Green Government is leaving people stranded with no public transport and asking them to use gas-guzzling vehicles instead.

"What this failure means in practice is tens of thousands of people struggling to get to and from work.

"More people out of pocket and made poorer. Millions lost for local businesses.

“And the industries that suffered so much during Covid now having to take another hit.

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“While this Deputy First Minister and his colleagues have 28 chauffeur-driven cars, costing over £1 million to get them to and from their work, this SNP/Green Government is cutting a thousand rail services a day, offering no replacement bus services and forcing people to work hours just to pay for a taxi home.

“Shouldn’t he and every other minister hand back the keys to their chauffeur-driven cars until they get this sorted and get Scotland moving again?"

Mr Swinney, who was standing in for Nicola Sturgeon while she recovers from Covid, said the Scottish Government is providing practical help during the cost-of-living crisis.

He pointed to measures such as the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment and council tax support.

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And he accused Labour of "getting into bed" with the Tories in Scottish councils.

Earlier, Mr Swinney said there is a shortage of drivers due to training being disrupted during the pandemic.

He said: "We are in a period of difficulty just now because drivers are exercising their voluntary right not to undertake rest-day working.

"We are trying to resolve those issues via the negotiations that are taking place, and we've put in place, through ScotRail, an amended timetable which gives more certainty about the availability of services rather than last-minute cancellations."

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Drivers are refusing to work overtime and on rest days because of an unresolved pay dispute after they rejected a 2.2 per cent increase offer, with the option of a revenue share agreement which would have taken the package to five per cent.

A spokesman for the First Minister later said Government ministers would not be giving up their cars.

He said: “Ministers need to get around as part of their job, so they’ll continue to do the job in the way that they usually do it.”

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