SNP Minister mocked for maintaining government cannot intervene in rail dispute as 700 services are canceled

An SNP Minister has been accused of “desperate spin” after claiming that the Scottish Government could not intervene in the Scotrail strike dispute that has led to the cancellation of 700 services from Monday.

As Scottish commuters face rail chaos Richard Lochhead, the SNP Employment Minister, said he hoped the Scotrail strike problems will be “sorted soon” but distanced the Holyrood government from the recently nationalized service.

Lochhead, speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, describing the rail network as being at “arms length” from the government but was quickly ridiculed by opponents and trade unions.

Lochhead said: “This is a matter between ScotRail and the unions, and we’re urging them as hard as we can to get this resolved as quickly as possible.”

A 2.2 per cent pay offer and a share option agreement has been rejected by the unions Aslef and RMT, which described it as “derisory”.

Lochhead said: “My message to all workers in Scotland and all these sectors is we have to be sensitive, everything has to be affordable because the country’s in a very, very precarious position at the moment, and if we take wrong decisions we could end up with a recession in the near future, which will cause a lot of damage to people’s lives and local business in Scotland and our economy.”

“It’s not for me as a minister to say what’s the right or wrong wage for a train driver or anyone else.”

“But just to say that it’s really important that people are compromising, being constructive, and recognize the consequences of these disputes dragging on for too long.”

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Lochhead’s comments were quickly disputed by the trade union negotiators.

ASLEF Scottish Organiser Kevin Lindsay said: “Richard Lochhead said he wants people to be ‘sensible’ over pay claims – from an ASLEF point of view the most sensitive thing that he could do right now is to tell ScotRail to get back to the negotiating table to settle this dispute so that the ridiculous timetable cuts that are planned for tomorrow can be withdrawn and our railways can get back to serving the public.”

He added: “It is not sensitive to ask workers to accept 2.2% when inflation is heading north of 10% and it is not credible to blame workers for the state of the economy. ‘

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Neil Bibby said Lochhead’s comments had been “desperate spin”.

The MSP said: “The minister had no answers to the chaos engulfing ScotRail on the SNP’s watch. To claim that the Government cannot act is laughable. The Government run ScotRail therefore they own these cuts and own this crisis.”

Economist Tony Mackay has estimated the dispute could initially cost the Scottish economy between £75 million and £80 million every week, with 700 services to be canceled per day from Monday.

Mackay told the Sunday Times that the initial cost would be from a combination of the fall in economic output and the extra money spent by travelers on things like taxi fares.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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