MSP hopes ScotRail disruption is 'sorted soon' amid £80m economy hit

An economist has warned the decision to cut 700 train services could cost the economy up to £80m a week.

Richard Lochhead hopes ScotRail disruption ‘sorted soon’ amid warning of £80m hit to economy iStock
ScotRail: Hundreds of services have been cancelled as a new timetable is introduced.

An MSP has said he hopes ScotRail disruption will be “sorted soon” as an economist warned the decision to cut 700 services could cost the economy as much as £80m a week. 

From Monday, a temporary timetable will be introduced amid the newly-nationalised rail operator’s pay dispute with drivers.

ScotRail is currently involved in a pay dispute with trade union Aslef, which has seen drivers decline to work overtime or on rest days.

The rail operator, which was recently taken into public ownership by the Scottish Government, said it relies on this to run a normal timetable.

The decision to cut hundreds of services has sparked fury as Scots face a summer of travel chaos for events such as Scotland’s World Cup qualifier at Hampden and issues for commuters. 

Economist Tony Mackay told The Sunday Times the move could initially cost the Scottish economy between £75m and £80m every week.

Employment minister Richard Lochhead told the BBC’s Sunday Show he hoped it could be “sorted soon” and that while he understood employees wanted to negotiate pay increases, he warned: “It’s highly regrettable what’s happening, it will take a toll on the business community, the economy more widely, and not just in terms of passengers.”

He added: “This is a matter between ScotRail and the unions, and we’re urging them as hard as we can to get this resolved as quickly as possible.”

Mr Lochhead told the BBC: “My message to all workers in Scotland and all these sectors is we have to be sensible, everything has to be affordable because the country’s in a very, very precarious position at the moment, and if we take wrong decisions we could end up with a recession in the near future, which will cause a lot of damage to people’s lives and local business in Scotland and our economy.

“It’s not for me as a minister to say what’s the right or wrong wage for a train driver or anyone else.

“But just to say that it’s really important that people are compromising, being constructive, and recognise the consequences of these disputes dragging on for too long.”

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby described the interview as a “masterclass in desperate spin from Richard Lochhead”.

“The minister had no answers to the chaos engulfing ScotRail on the SNP’s watch,” he said.

“To claim that the Government cannot act is laughable. The Government run ScotRail, therefore they own these cuts and own this crisis.”