Scottish government hits out at Tory rail regulation ‘dogma’

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By a Newsnet reporter 

The refusal of the Tory-led coalition to lift restrictions on the ability of the Scottish Government to revolutionise the way in which Scotland’s railways are run has been condemned as ‘putting their own dogma first’.

Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil MSP had written to UK Transport Secretary Justine Greening making the case for the Scottish Government to gain more control over how railways are operated and regulated in Scotland.

Although the Scottish Government is responsible for funding investment in Scotland’s railways, UK legislation still dictates the way in which services are fundamentally delivered.  This means that state-owned companies from outside the UK are currently allowed to run rail services in the UK but home-grown public bodies are barred.

Commenting, SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald who sits on the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee said:

“The absolute priority when it comes to our rail network should be to deliver the best network possible at the best value for money.

“For the UK Government to exclude potential options to transform our railways out of hand smacks of them putting their own dogma first. The Scottish Government’s hands should not be tied by the Tory-led coalition’s ideological baggage.

“If the public sector has the potential to deliver a better service on Scotland’s railways then it should be an available option.”

UK Transport Secretary Justine Greening rejected Scottish government requests claiming it would break up what she described as a coherent UK wide structure.  The Tory Minister insisted the powers Scottish ministers already had that allowed them to set fares and specify services, were adequate.

Ms Greening said: “It would not be sensible to run the railway in such a way that the Scottish Parliament could overturn the framework that governs the operation of passenger services on a GB basis.

“Our policy is to maintain a unified, national rail network but one that is subject to appropriate oversight by the Scottish ministers.  This is what the current system achieves.”

However, Mr MacDonald claimed that legislative power was needed in order to deliver the best rail service possible and added:

“The SNP Government has announced a fantastic £5 billion package of improvements to Scotland’s railways which I am confident will deliver significant results.  However, the missing link is legislative power so that we can deliver the very best options for Scotland’s railways.

“For the Tory-led coalition to maintain limits on Scotland’s ambitions for our railways is intolerable.

“Their ideological obstruction is a clear demonstration of why we would be far better placed with decisions on Scotland’s railways being made by people 100% elected by people in Scotland.”