Jenny Gilruth accuses UK Government of 'belligerence' as latest Network Rail strikes affect services in Scotland
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Ms Gilruth said her UK counterpart Grant Shapps must inject “political willing” into resolving rail strikes as she expressed concerns of “dangerous right-wing rhetoric” amongst the Conservatives in Westminster.
Severe disruption was experienced on Scotland’s railways on Wednesday – and will be again on Thursday – due to fresh strikes by thousands of workers in the bitter row over jobs, pay and conditions.
A limited number of trains will run on key routes between Glasgow and Edinburgh; Edinburgh and Bathgate; Glasgow and Hamilton/Larkhall; and Glasgow and Lanark on Wednesday.
Picket lines were mounted outside railway stations across Scotland, including Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley, and depots by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail. A protest took place outside Network Rail’s head office in Glasgow.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Ms Gilruth said: "Network Rail is an arms-length body of the Department for Transport in the UK Government.
"So, of course, Mr Shapps has a role here, as I did in the previous dispute.
"I am asking him to inject the political willing into this dispute. Minds in Westminster appear to be elsewhere.
"There does not appear to be political focus on resolving this dispute. Instead there appears to a belligerence in the UK Government.
"And also, as we've heard from the candidates vying to become the next prime minister, they are continuing to hype up right-wing rhetoric, including trying to ban trade unions from legitimate action, such as striking, in the future.
"That's really dangerous. That's not what we did in Scotland. We had a respectful dialogue throughout the dispute."
As a result of the strikes, passengers in Scotland experienced less than 10 per cent of services running on Wednesday as a result of the UK-wide strikes.
Ms Gilruth said: "It’s vitally important now that Grant Shapps instructs Network Rail and the train operating companies to get back around the negotiating table with the trade unions, which is exactly what I did with ScotRail in the most recent dispute, so that we can get to that resolution where we can reinstate full services and to avoid any further strikes.”
ScotRail urged passengers to check their journeys before travelling and only do so if necessary.
Trains are expected to be disrupted on Thursday morning, with a later start to services as employees return to duties.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new.
“In fact Network Rail have upped the ante, threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50 per cent cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw our planned strike action.
“RMT will continue to negotiate in good faith but we will not be bullied or cajoled by anyone.
“The Government need to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us.”