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Rail Unions (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th November 2016.

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Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government when it last met the rail unions. (S5O-00302)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

In addition to regular engagement with the Scottish Trades Union Congress, meetings have been held to discuss specific issues with individual unions. Most recently, I met Manuel Cortés, the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, on 25 October. As part of my regular engagement with the STUC, I will meet the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and the TSSA tomorrow, when I imagine that a number of issues will be discussed.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

The three major railway trade unions all oppose the Scottish Government’s proposal to wind up the British Transport Police’s operations in Scotland and absorb the service into Police Scotland. The unions cite the need for a distinctive police service for the railway. The deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police told the Justice Committee only last week that dual control of the transport police’s function would lead to even more train delays and to railways crimes being downgraded.

My constituent Lucy Milton, who is an employee of the British Transport Police and who lives in Airdrie, wrote to me:

“There isn’t a thought for those of us lying awake at night wondering how we will support families or indeed how the service we have worked so very hard to provide will be delivered once this is over. They don’t care what happens to us.”

How does the minister answer Lucy Milton, the deputy chief constable, ASLEF, the RMT, the TSSA and the other transport experts? Why will the Scottish Government not drop the proposed bill?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Now, Mr Leonard, you have set us off in a bad way, because that was not a short second question. I hope that you will not repeat that approach, minister.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will keep my answer brief, Presiding Officer.

I will engage with the unions tomorrow, when I will be keen to hear their concerns. I will see whether I can give them the necessary reassurance.

I will say a couple of things to the member’s constituent and those who oppose the policy. First, we are giving a lot of assurances that we will protect the number of staff and the terms and conditions of BTP officers. Most important, we are ensuring that railway expertise is maintained on the railways. I recognise that BTP officers joined the BTP to be on our railways and not out on the beat in the streets, and we will protect their expertise.

Secondly, we were elected on a manifesto promise to do what we are doing with BTP integration, and I remind the member that we got more votes than his party and the main Opposition party combined. That is the rationale behind what we are doing.

I will consult the unions, the British Transport Police and anybody else who has any concerns about the integration of the BTP. Police numbers will be protected and officers’ terms and conditions will be protected. I would have thought that the member would welcome that.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Oh, dear—all hope is gone.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

When the minister last met the rail unions, did he discuss with them the need for repair and better maintenance of the fabric of the rail station at Prestwick airport?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The matter was not raised in the last discussion that I had with the rail unions, but I am more than happy to discuss it with the member and to see whether I can provide assurances about it and take it up with Network Rail.