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Jenny Gilruth fails to confirm back-up plan if ScotRail pay deal is rejected

A new pay offer from ScotRail is due to be put to train drivers (Jane Barlow/PA)
A new pay offer from ScotRail is due to be put to train drivers (Jane Barlow/PA)

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth has refused to say whether contingency plans are in place if ScotRail drivers reject the latest pay offer.

Train drivers have been offered an improved pay offer of 4.2% and it is expected to be considered by the Aslef union this week,

The dispute has created travel chaos as train drivers refuse to work on their rest days or Sundays, leading to short-notice cancellations and the introduction of a temporary timetable last week.

Conservative MSP Graham Simpson asked Ms Gilruth in the chamber what contingency plans were in place if this offer was not accepted.

Coronavirus – Tue Oct 6, 2020
Finance Secretary Jenny Gilruth did not say whether a contingency plan was in place (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

It follows hundreds of additional cancellations on Sunday due to a driver shortage.

Responding, Ms Gilruth said she understood that passengers were “frustrated and inconvenienced” by the travel disruptions.

Earlier, Ms Gilruth told the PA news agency she was “hopeful” that union members will accept the pay offer.

Asked if a resolution was near, she said: “I’m hopeful. Obviously the offer will be put to Aslef at their meeting tomorrow.

“And it will be up to the members to decide whether or not they want to take that forward and then whether or not it will go to a referendum of members too.”

She also said she believed ScotRail had made a “good offer” and that getting a resolution was “absolutely essential”.

But in the chamber, Mr Simpson told the Finance Secretary: “So there are no contingency plans then?

“Even if Aslef recommends that members accept the deal tomorrow, it will take three weeks to ballot them – that’s nearly a month of disruption to start with.

“It was carnage on the railways at the weekend. On Sunday, 320 services were cancelled and there may be more this Sunday.

“We’re in this mess because drivers don’t want to work their rest days – and why should they?”

He also asked Ms Gilruth when the Scottish Government was going to deliver “stability” to Scotland’s railways.

Ms Gilruth told Labour’s Mark Griffin she was not going to “shy away” from some of the “very real challenges” faced by travellers.

The transport minister said ScotRail was also meeting with the RMT to discuss pay, saying the union was involved in a separate dispute with Network Rail.

She said she had written to her UK Government counterpart, Grant Shapps, setting out her opposition to any moves which would “diminish rail safety”.

On Monday night, ScotRail announced it would be putting on extra late-night services from Glasgow to accommodate fans watching Scotland’s World Cup play-off against Ukraine at Hampden.

Discussing this, Ms Gilruth said: “I’m delighted that they have provided these additional services, which will provide some certainty for the Tartan Army.”

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