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Rail unions welcome Scottish government action to bring ScotRail services into public ownership

by Niall Christie

Scotland editor

RAIL unions and opposition politicians have welcomed Scottish government action to bring ScotRail services into public ownership. 

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told the Scottish Parliament today that a publicly owned operator of last resort will run the franchise from March 2022. 

Mr Matheson said that staff will transfer to the new employer with their terms and conditions protected.

The SNP minister reiterated calls for the full devolution of rail powers, adding the government’s preferred option for the future was an “integrated public-sector” model. 

The decision was welcomed by the rail unions, which have long called for public ownership. 

Aslef Scotland organiser Kevin Lindsay said: “This move starts the end of franchising and the end of a failed Tory experiment. 

“It’s now for all of us in the railway to build a railway that’s accessible, affordable and safe for the people of Scotland.”

RMT said that the government need not wait until next March, calling for the operator to take responsibility from September and ensure that workers are protected throughout the process. 

General secretary Mick Cash said: “Public ownership of ScotRail will deliver significant benefits for Scotland’s rail workers, passengers and taxpayers and help enable the creation of an affordable, accessible and sustainable rail network that contributes to Scotland’s decarbonisation targets.”

Labour MSP Alex Rowley reiterated the need for unions to be part of the discussion as ScotRail moves from Abellio’s ownership into public hands, but he said it was disappointing to see fellow privateer Serco retain the Caledonian Sleeper service. 

Green MSP John Finnie welcomed the announcement, saying that it had been a “long time coming,” while calling on the government to consider proposals to modernise the railways, including by electrifying lines and increasing capacity.

TSSA union general secretary Manuel Cortes said that the rest of Britain should “end the Tories’ Frankenstein privatisation failure.”

He added: “The Covid-19 pandemic made it abundantly clear that our railways are a public service, not a piggy bank for fat-cat shareholders.” 

We Own It’s Johnbosco Nwogbo said: "For far too long, Scots have suffered misery on the railway at the hands of Abellio.

"Under public ownership, we can have a railway fit for the 21st century, with proper investment, lower fares and world-class infrastructure. 

“It’s time for the Westminster government to end the rip-off.”


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