ScotRail pay dispute: SNP must intervene after union threatens to target Edinburgh festivals – Steve Cardownie

As a former Edinburgh City Council Festival and Events Champion and a full-time, elected, civil service trade union official, the current rail dispute and its potential effect on Edinburgh’s forthcoming festivals in August has caused me some concern.

After two years of disruptions caused by Covid, Edinburgh Festival could be hit by rail strikes (Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
After two years of disruptions caused by Covid, Edinburgh Festival could be hit by rail strikes (Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The rail union will obviously choose the time when industrial action will have the maximum impact and, if the dispute is not resolved soon, it will have serious consequences, not only for the financial performance of the companies involved, but also for travelling passengers whose ability to go to and from Edinburgh will be severely restricted.

Passengers are already facing massive disruption and day-to-day rail travel in Scotland has become increasingly difficult, so while the dispute is already taking effect, the targeting of Edinburgh in its festival month is a legitimate escalating tactic which is designed to ensure that the union is promoting and protecting its members’ interests to the best of their ability.

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The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) is planning to ballot its members on strike action after they rejected a 2.2 per cent pay offer.

Its Scottish organiser Mick Hogg has said that the Edinburgh festivals would be “targeted” because “that’s where the impact is going to be”.

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This has already started the alarm bells ringing in the ears of festival stakeholders. The umbrella organisation Festivals Edinburgh stated that impairing the ability of people getting to and from the city in August was “a major concern” and the Assembly’s director, William Burdett-Coutts, has also articulated his worries, saying that “after three years of little or no festival activity, Edinburgh needs all the help it can get”.

After the detrimental effect of the Covid pandemic on the city’s festivals, this threat of escalated travel disruption is the last thing they need.

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What is needed is the Scottish Government’s intervention. The potential impact on Edinburgh and Scotland’s economy cannot be understated and sitting on the sidelines is not an option.

It is not simply a matter for ScotRail’s management and the unions. The government must intercede and resolve this dispute. The stakes are too high not to.