ScotRail cuts: RMT union would 'deliberately target' Edinburgh festivals over pay dispute amid 'ghost town' warning
A leading transport union has said it will “deliberately target” the Edinburgh festivals with strike action amid warnings an ongoing pay dispute could turn the Scottish capital into a “ghost town” in August.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) confirmed on Thursday, as first reported in The Scotsman, that railway workers would be balloted on strike action after rejecting a 2.2 per cent pay offer from ScotRail.
The decision comes amid a severe shortage in train drivers that has forced ScotRail to introduced a reduced timetable from Monday.
The newly-nationalised service will cut 700 daily service after workers refused to work on rest days, with the disruption forecast to cost the Scottish economy up to £80 million a week.
Rail chiefs have been unable to guarantee that a normal timetable will be restored in time for a bumper summer of events, including the Edinburgh festivals in August, concerts at Hampden Stadium in Glasgow and the TRNSMT music festival on Glasgow Green in July.
And with industrial action set to potentially begin in July, RMT Scotland organiser Mick Hogg said the union would look to target the month-long festival in August.
Mr Hogg told the Sunday Post: “We would deliberately target the Edinburgh Festival because that’s where the impact is going be.
“The festival is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the economy and attracts tourist from all over the world.
“To lose out on that would have a massive detrimental impact on the Scottish economy. With no trains running, Edinburgh would be a ghost town.
“Out the window would be the Scottish Government’s green credentials because people would be forced into their cars, into using taxis and buses.”
Organisers of the Edinburgh festivals are banking on a bumper return in 2022 after two years severely impacted by Covid.
Economist Tony Mackay told The Sunday Times the initial cost from reduced services would be from a combination of the fall in economic output and the extra money spent by travellers on things like taxi fares.
A typical ScotRail driver salary is more than £50,000, with drivers being offered a 2.2 per cent pay rise and the opportunity to participate in a revenue share agreement which would take the total package to 5 per cent.