Jobs minister claims Scottish Government cannot intervene over Scotrail dispute

THE Scottish Government’s employment minister has said he hopes the Scotrail strike problems will be “sorted soon” but distanced Holyrood’s ability to intervene.

Richard Lochhead, speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, said he hoped the dispute at the newly-nationalised service will be resolved quickly but it was one between Scotrail and the trade unions, describing the rail network as at ‘arms length’ from the government. 

Economist Tony Mackay told The Sunday Times the dispute could initially cost the Scottish economy between £75 million and £80 million every week, with 700 services to be cancelled per day from tomorrow.

Mr Lochhead said the situation was “highly regrettable”, adding: “It will take a toll on the business community, the economy more widely, and not just in terms of passengers.”

He added: “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.”

Mr Mackay said the initial cost would be from a combination of the fall in economic output and the extra money spent by travellers on things like taxi fares.

A typical ScotRail driver salary is more than £50,000, with drivers being offered a 2.2% pay rise and the opportunity to participate in a revenue share agreement which would take the total package to 5%.

The offers has been rejected by the unions Aslef and RMT, which described it as “derisory”.

Mr Lochhead said: “My message to all workers in Scotland and all these sectors is we have to be sensible, 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 recognise the consequences of these disputes dragging on for too long.”

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

The MSP said: ““This interview was a masterclass in desperate spin from Richard Lochhead.

“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.”

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