ScotRail boss ‘did not quit over funding clash’ - Humza Yousaf

Phil Verster stood down as ScotRail Alliance managing director last month
Phil Verster stood down as ScotRail Alliance managing director last month
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Transport minister Humza Yousaf has dismissed claims that departing ScotRail boss Phil Verster left the post after a funding clash with Scottish ministers.

The minister insisted that the shock departure last month was not not down to any "disagreement" over the way a fund for station for improvements should be spent, as he appeared before Holyrood's Rural Affairs committee.

Mr Verster announced that he was quitting as managing director of Abellio ScotRail this month to take up a post at the East West rail project in England. It came after months of criticism over the performance of Scotland's trains.

Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles confronted the minister today on the issue of SQUIRE funding which is used for station improvements.

About £834,000 has already been allocated from the fund, MSPs heard, with £1.8 million not yet spent.

Mr Rumbles said he had been "surprised" when Mr Verster told the committee in a recent appearance that Abellio was responsible for deciding how SQUIRE cash should be spent - not the Scottish Government.

Mr Rumbles added: "This £1.8 million, he said, he had not agreed to - and then 48 hours later he resigns.

"Now you come to the committee and say `we have the funding already in place.'

The Lib Dem added; "I'm actually making a point to you which I'd like you to address. I'm trying to get to the facts here. Phil Verster comes to the committee makes that point.

“You've come to the committee, make the opposite point. There's obviously a disagreement between the two of you."

Mr Yousaf said the Government has control of the SQUIRE fund, but he added: "The insinuation is an absolutely incorrect one.

"It is absolutely unfair to make a suggestion that after Phil Verster's coming to committee, he resigned over that.

“That was the insinuation you were making - an absolutely incorrect one, an absolutely false one to make and frankly a crass one to make."

Committee convenor Edward Mountain warned the minister to refrain from "personal" attacks and Mr Rumbles insisted he was "not insinuating anything."

Mr Yousaf said that when it comes to spending SQUIRE cash, ScotRail will come to national transport body Transport Scotland and ministers, before an agreement is reached.

But the minister said that Mr Verster had been "working from memory" when he made his comments.

"I'm more than happy provide the member with the wording of the contract."