Industrial Action by Rail Workers (Impact on Night-time Economy)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd June 2022.

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Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what measures it is putting in place to mitigate the impact of industrial action by rail workers, including on the night-time economy. (S6O-01278)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Network Rail strikes began on Tuesday this week, with today and Saturday presently earmarked as days for strike action. Noting that the dispute is a reserved matter for Network Rail and the relevant train operating companies to resolve, I have written to both Network Rail and the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Transport outlining this Government’s position on no compulsory redundancies, and urging all parties to resume talks to ensure a quick and timely resolution.

Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

Arts and theatre venues have expressed their concerns about reduced rail timetables and their impact on the re-emergence of live performances and culture in Scotland. What steps is the Scottish Government taking to provide certainty to the Scottish culture sector, and what forms of compensation for theatres, if any, is it considering to mitigate the impacts of restricted timetables?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Sharon Dowey seems to be conflating industrial action, which is happening today and happened earlier this week, with the legitimate action of the train drivers’ union in refusing to work on rest days. It is important to say that the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen—the train drivers’ union—has said that that is not formal industrial action. I accept that—as I had thought the Conservatives did, although maybe we should seek some clarity on that.

ScotRail is running a reduced timetable. I am hopeful that we will be able to reintroduce the previous full timetable in the coming weeks.

When it comes to cultural impacts, Sharon Dowey will recall that I have previously served in Government as a culture minister. I recognise that this has been a deeply challenging time for our theatres and for the culture sector more broadly, which had to contend with the imposition of pandemic restrictions until quite far into last year. The Government sought to support the culture sector and provided additional funding, which the United Kingdom Government did not provide.

When it comes to the work that will have been undertaken by the relevant minister, I defer to Neil Gray to answer the specifics of the member’s question, but I am sure that he will have been meeting regularly with the event industry advisory group, as I did throughout the pandemic, to ensure that we put in place the additional support that is required to help the culture sector in what is a really challenging time.

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party

The dispute between the United Kingdom Government’s Network Rail and RMT is having an enormous impact on Scotland, and the Tories are clearly continuing the dispute for political and ideological purposes. Mick Hogg recently told

The Nine”:

“Perhaps the UK Government should take a feather out of the Scottish Government’s hat and ... propose 5 per cent, along with a five-year no compulsory redundancy agreement”.

In Scotland, we recognise the valuable role that trade unions play in our industrial relations, but it is clear that the Tories would use the dispute to weaken the role of the unions.

The Presiding Officer:

Question, please.

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party

What discussions have taken place with the UK Government regarding the impact on Scotland of its ideological dispute?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I fully agree with Siobhian Brown. On engagement with the UK Government, meetings were scheduled to take place between the devolved Governments and the UK Government on Monday, but they were cancelled at short notice. I was meant to meet Wendy Morton, the minister who is responsible for rail, on Wednesday, but that meeting was also cancelled at short notice. Despite repeated representations from me to Grant Shapps, there has been limited consultation between the UK Government and this Government, which is deeply regrettable because, of course, at this moment in time, Network Rail remains reserved. This situation is yet another reason why we need full devolution of Scotland’s rail services back to Scotland.