Political jousting over railway franchising

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 15:15 on 8 February 2015

ScotRail    Politics    SNP    Labour

14-07-2014 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Official opening of Cumbernauld railway station, by Jamie Hepburn MSP; Picture 20.
Picture: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.

A BATTLE of MSP against MP has erupted in Cumbernauld over the issue of rail franchising with the former accusing the latter of ‘misleading people’ over the future railway franchise.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament has claimed that Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour Member of Parliament “wilfully” misled people over comments he made about the future franchising of Scotland’s railway services. 

It follows claims made earlier this month by Mr McClymont that the Scottish Government could move the rail ownership into public hands permanently. 

However, Mr Hepburn contends that no such powers are proposed in the Smith Commission report, which Mr McClymont was involved in drafting as a Smith Commission member.

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour MP claimed that “Scottish Labour will use Smith powers for a People’s ScotRail”, contending that the Smith Agreement will devolve powers to the Scottish Parliament in due course that will allow a non-profit organisation to bid to run Scotland’s railways.

Mr Hepburn has accused Mr McClymont of either wilfully misleading the public or failing to understand the content of the report he helped write.

Commenting, the SNP MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth said: “The powers proposed in the Smith Commission would still not allow the Scottish Government to introduce the sort of policy Mr McClymont claims.

“Even if the Smith Commission recommendations were delivered in full, it would only allow public sector operators to bid for rail franchises. This is not the same as being able to move the railways permanently into public hands as Mr McClymont suggests.

“It comes as some surprise that Gregg McClymont doesn’t appear to understand this, as he sat on the Smith Commission and was one of the authors of its report.

“If Mr McClymont wanted such powers to be devolved to Scotland, as I do, then he should have argued for them when he was literally in the room where the contents of the Smith proposals were agreed.

“Instead, he was a roadblock to Scotland getting the powers it needs and was promised and he is responsible for the Smith Commission powers being such a damp squib.  

“Even if the powers in the Smith Commission were delivered tomorrow and at the same time Labour found themselves in power at Holyrood, it would be impossible for them to deliver this policy.

“Either Mr McClymont understands this and is wilfully misleading the people of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth to make a cheap political point or he doesn’t understand what is actually contained within the package of powers he was responsible for recommending be devolved.

“Either way this is desperate stuff from Labour and desperate stuff from Mr McClymont.”

Gregg McClymont, though, remains defiant, and in a press statement, the Labour man said that Scottish Labour had “mapped out a better future for public transport”, arguing that the way forward was for a not-for-profit ‘People’s ScotRail’.

Mr McClymont said that the Smith Agreement will soon devolve powers to the Scottish Parliament that will allow the Scottish Government to pick a non-profit organisation through the franchise bidding process to run Scotland’s railways.

The MP claimed that a non-profit bid would see profits reinvested in better services and cheaper fares, not lining the pockets of shareholders.

“I want to see better, cheaper public transport. The Smith Agreement means we can have a ScotRail that is serving commuters, not shareholders,” Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour MP, Gregg McClymont said. 

He added: “The current ScotRail franchise sees money going straight from the public purse to shareholders pockets. The incoming one will see Scottish public money support transport infrastructure in Holland. 

“Neither deal is the best deal for Scotland when commuters are waiting on late running services, paying over inflated fares whilst being squeezed against train doors on overcrowded journeys.”