ScotRail (Alcohol Ban)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 March 2024.

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Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it can provide an update on when it will make a decision on the continued ban on the consumption of alcohol at all times on trains, in light of ScotRail’s confirmation in evidence to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee that the consultation findings have been passed to Transport Scotland. (S6O-03277)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is aware that a wide range of views is held by passengers, ScotRail staff and other interested parties on the alcohol ban on ScotRail trains. ScotRail routinely asks passengers questions about a variety of topics related to the customer experience. However, those are not formal consultations; rather, they are short-duration online surveys.

The findings from ScotRail’s passenger survey on the alcohol ban are being considered as part of much wider and more robust work that is being undertaken to reduce unacceptable antisocial behaviours on our public transport. The Parliament will be informed in the most appropriate way once a decision on the future of the alcohol ban on ScotRail trains has been taken.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

There is defer, dither and delay from the devolved Government. The temporary ban came into force in November 2020. We were told to wait for Jenny Gilruth’s national conversation on rail, but that was binned. We then had ScotRail’s survey of passengers, which was completed. The issue is dragging on for far too long. Can the Scottish Government please make a decision one way or the other?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

We are making a decision by not changing that currently. However, there are genuinely strong and differing views on the issue each way, including in the chamber. It is right that we consider those views, and not least the safety and the perceived safety of women and girls.

A lot of the issues relating to alcohol are not about consumption on the trains; they are about the condition of people coming on to trains prior to their entry to the station. I say quite openly that, if we are to change the alcohol situation on trains, we would have to consider whether it would be the same as it previously was or whether we would change that. That is about as open as I can be.

I know that Douglas Lumsden is impatient, and I suspect that he wants his drink on the train back to Aberdeen, but I genuinely want the situation to be dealt with in a very open way. There are big differences in opinion and strongly held views on whether we should change the situation. That is exactly what I am wrestling with.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Karen Adam has a brief supplementary question. I hope that there will be a brief response.

Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

Surely the priority must be users of trains feeling safe, particularly women and girls, who feel particularly unsafe in atmospheres in which there is antisocial behaviour that is accompanied by alcohol consumption. Has the ban on alcohol led to a decreased number of incidents of antisocial behaviour on ScotRail services?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The cabinet secretary should be as brief as possible.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

That is an example of what I was saying. There are different views, including in parties and in the chamber. The pattern of antisocial behaviour has made identifying quantifiable evidence challenging. That is what we are wrestling with in identifying a robust evidence base. The safety of women is paramount. However, I also know that the unions have different views and would like the ban to be lifted. The decision is not an easy one, but we want to proceed in the most robust and open way possible.