Railways (Public Ownership)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th February 2021.

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Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

8. To ask the Scottish Government when it plans to take Scotland’s railways back into public ownership. (S5O-05024)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Our view remains that an integrated, public sector-controlled railway that is fully accountable to the Scottish ministers and Parliament will best serve Scotland. Repeated calls for United Kingdom ministers to give Scotland the powers that are needed to secure the best future for Scotland’s railway and to remove the absurdities and anomalies of the current system have so far been denied. While we await the findings of the delayed UK rail review, we are considering all options available to us for the future operation of ScotRail services after the current contract, which is expected to end in March 2022.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

The Abellio franchise has been an expensive disaster. The Labour Government in Wales has taken the railway there back into public ownership to protect essential services. Why has the Scottish Government not done that here?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

My understanding of what has happened in Wales is that it has moved to an operator of last resort due to financial difficulties with the franchise agreement that was in place with the rail provider. I am also aware that Wales has some private sector involvement in its rail infrastructure. I am not in favour of that, because I prefer the rail infrastructure to remain in public sector control.

The critical element is what the best way is to deliver better passenger services. In my view, that is through a public sector-controlled railway. That is in respect of not just the rolling-stock element but the infrastructure element, and it is about better integrating those elements. We are giving significant consideration to that area for the future design of a publicly controlled rail network in Scotland in respect of not just the infrastructure element but the rolling-stock element.