ScotRail Services (Financial Impact)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st June 2022.

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Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

7. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment the finance secretary has made of any impact on Scotland’s financial outlook as a result of the reduction to ScotRail services. (S6O-01164)

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

There is no doubt that the current temporary timetable is causing significant inconvenience and frustration to travellers, especially people who need early and late services to get to and from work and those sectors and businesses in the economy that depend on people being able to travel in the evenings. We are engaging with stakeholders in sectors that may be affected by disruption to services, and we will continue to do so in the coming weeks.

The latest transport trends show a downturn in travel by rail compared to previous weeks, but they are also showing a slight uplift in concessionary bus travel, which is welcome. However, the sooner that we can get back to a full timetable, the better it will be for passengers, for businesses and, of course, for employees.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

The well-respected economist Tony Mackay said that the estimated cost to the Scottish economy that is due to the cuts to ScotRail is between £75 million and £80 million every week, from the combination of the fall in economic output and the extra money that is being spent by travellers to get to their destinations. Does the minister agree with that analysis? After yesterday’s announcement, will the Scottish Government hit reset and properly invest in our public transport and economy?

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

I note Professor Tony Mackay’s comments with interest. As the member would expect, we have given them some consideration. However, we are aware that those estimates were produced rapidly and, crucially, before the revised timetable was introduced. We are monitoring the situation and, as I say, we are engaging with stakeholders to understand the impact on their sectors.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

Just over a week ago, Richard Lochhead told the BBC’s

The Sunday Show that he hoped that the ScotRail crisis would be sorted soon. However, we have learned in the past hour that the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen has rejected ScotRail’s pay offer. Instead of being sorted soon, the disruption that is being experienced by rail users across Scotland could get a lot worse.

The minister must be aware of the impact that the disruption is having across Scotland and on regions such as mine, the Highlands and Islands, particularly at the start of the tourist season. What regional analysis—if any—is being conducted of the economic impact that the crisis is having on businesses and communities? What support might be made available by the Government?

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

As I said previously, we are engaging regularly with businesses and we will take any particular issues that are identified by them, whether those are national or specific to a particular region, into account when we consider how we respond.