'No more excuses' for Scottish Government as it is challenged to follow Wales in nationalising railways

Unions and opposition political parties have called on the Scottish government to follow the Welsh government and bring the railways back into public ownership.

The Scottish Government has been challenged to bring passenger railways back into public ownership

The railway workers union RMT lead the calls, stating the Scottish government now had “no excuses” not to take the same sort of action.

The franchises in Scotland – ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper – have been beset with problems for years with Abellio’s ScotRail contract cut short by three years by transport secretary Michael Matheson in 2019, with it now ending in 2022.

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The Welsh government announced today it would take its passenger railway franchise with KeolisAmey back into public ownership.

A potential nationalisation move has also been backed by the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA), Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash welcomed the move from the Welsh government and said Covid-19 meant the Scottish government could bring their franchises into public ownership.

He said: “There should now be no more excuses for the Scottish government, who have greater powers than the Welsh government over rail services, not to take similar action.

“The failure of privately operated ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper to meet their contractual obligations due to the drop in passenger numbers caused by Covid–19 means the Scottish government has the power to appoint a public operator of last resort to take rail services into public ownership.

“Instead it has chosen to use the extra public funding necessary to support railways in Scotland at this difficult time to be delivered through Emergency Measures Agreements that allow these companies to carry on making profits on the backs of the tax payer and passengers.

“The Scottish government should act now to take rail services into public ownership.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said the “game is up” for the franchising model.

He said: “This is a welcome and positive step from the Welsh government, which will put our railways back in public hands and again shows the abject failure of privatisation.

"Now that the Labour party in Wales has shown how it’s done it’s time for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP in Scotland to follow their lead.”

Scottish Labour’s transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “The decision by the Welsh government now heaps more pressure on the SNP government to back nationalisation and use the powers they have to end the Abellio ScotRail and Serco Caledonian franchises.

“Scotland’s rail passengers and workers want to see our railways under public ownership. It’s time the SNP listened.”

Scottish Greens transport spokesperson John Finnie said: "Ministers should be inspired by what Wales has done.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said it was “considering all options” for the future of the ScotRail franchise.

They said: “While the legal framework that requires franchising is set by the UK Government, we have repeatedly called on UK ministers to give Scotland the powers needed to secure the best future for Scotland’s railway network, and to remove the absurdities and anomalies of the current system.

“For example, rail is different in Wales, where the Welsh Government now owns large parts of the infrastructure whereas in Scotland it remains owned and managed by Network Rail who answer to the UK Government.

‘We have long called for the full transfer of all rail policy, including Network Rail’s responsibilities, to Scotland. We would encourage anyone with a genuine interest in running rail in the nation’s interests to get behind us in those calls.”

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