Wednesday, 8 October 2014

An Opportunity Missed

Part of the success of the yes campaign was that we were able to convince a great number of people that Scotland was capable of running our own affairs. That we were capable of taking hold of the key issues and institutions which were crucial in the development of a Scottish society. One which enhanced the case of fairness and equality. 

It then comes as surprise to me that the Scottish Government has awarded the franchise to run Scottish railways to Dutch state owned Abellio. 

I have seen many on social media rush to defend the SNP over this policy but the truth is regardless of how good a deal this was and it does look like a reasonable deal regarding the living wage, apprenticeships and Union members on board. It does refute an opportunity for Scotland to nationalise their railways, incorporate all the good within this deal, ensure that this is actually followed through and ensure all profits are going into Scottish Government rather than a combination of Dutch state and Serco. 

I fully back RMT when their General Secretary Mick Cash said: 

 “There is no question that this whole franchising process could and should have been halted, pending the ratification of the post-referendum devolution settlement, instead of rushing headlong into a deal that will deny the Scottish people ownership and control of their railways for many years to come.”

I do not buy this notion that we had to make a decision right now. Theses issues have a habit of being delayed and with an understandable reason of unknown powers during this time has meant that an extension of Scot Rails franchise for 6 months in extraordinary circumstances. 

For those that are arguing the 1933 Railway Act prohibit us from nationalising the railways this is however not true. 

ASLEF say that:
" The key to doing anything is the powers under Section 26(z)(a) of the Railway Act 1993 

This section applies where either: The Scottish Ministers receive no tenders; or “It receives a tender but considers that the services would be provided more economically and efficiently if they are provided otherwise under a franchise agreement entered into in response to the tender.” In those circumstances the Scottish Government can enter into a franchise agreement with someone else (by definition if the alternative agreement is more economic and efficient) or, under Section 30, the Scottish Government will be under a duty to run the franchise themselves as an operator of last resort"

What the Scottish Government has done today is to remove an excellent opportunity for Scotland to further differentiate ourselves from Westminster Government. That we take notice of what the public want. A vast majority of the public not only in Scotland but UK as a whole support nationalising of railways. It also puts the profits back into the peoples hands. It ensures that the benefits of any deal are offered by ourselves guaranteed rather than hopefully kept by a company, which if their running of East Anglia Rail does not bode well for our railways. 

To those who have argued that we couldn't afford it. We currently run Prestwick Airport which despite an additional £10 million being invested this summer is losing over £2 million a month. This was a decision I fully supported incidentally. This was not a huge sum required £30 million which would have began through rejecting other bids as muted by Aslef. 

Perhaps a more worrying notion I have seen appear is that all decisions by the SNP and the Scottish Government must not be questioned for fear of ruining the Yes movement. It is a ridiculous suggestion that anyone should not be permitted to question their governments actions for the sake of winning GE in 2015. This critique is not coming from a Labour member (anymore) nor will I vote for Labour in the General Elections. RMT supported a yes vote and don't fund Labour so any accusations of siding with Labour on this are also false. 

This decision was wrong, would it have been different had there been a yes vote? Probably, but we cant continue to blame a no vote to inflict bad policy. The truth is there were ways in which the Scottish Government could have made our railways nationalised they didn't. We cant blame losing a referendum for this, nor should we hold our tongues because it is the SNP which made this choice. When statements like this start coming out, an Orwellian future is never far behind. 


  1. If as you suggest the deal had been delayed pending new powers, would first not be in an excellent position to ask for rather favourable conditions to extend the franchise? They would have the government over a bit of a barrel.
    Particularly as they would know that they wouldn't be getting it renewed in the event of extra powers, so would have no incentive to act reasonably.

    Would there also not be problems with regard to EU competition law if the tendering process was halted at this late stage, would Abellio et all not have an opportunity to sue the Scottish Government?

    These are genuine questions, I was also hoping for their to be some way to renationalise, but I don't want to crucify the SNP for perhaps making the best of a bad lot.

  2. Alan, should it have been delayed- possibly. This is not a clear cut issue and I think the Procurement laws must have hung heavy on the decision making process. As for questioning the SNP government - more power to your elbow. The SNP in the last few years has been less than perfect and is worthy of having a few bricks lobbied at it. This one appears to be more of smallish stone.....

  3. Section 25 of the Act

    status warnings
    25 Public sector operators not to be franchisees.

    (1)The following bodies and persons (in this Part referred to as “public sector operators”) shall not be franchisees—

    (a)any Minister of the Crown, Government department or other emanation of the Crown;

    (b)any local authority;

    [F1(bb)the Greater London Authority;

    F2(bc)Transport for London;]

    (c)any metropolitan county passenger transport authority;

    (d)any body corporate whose members are appointed by a Minister of the Crown, a Government department, a local authority [F3, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London] or a metropolitan county passenger transport authority or by a body corporate whose members are so appointed;

    (e)a company—

    (i)a majority of whose issued shares are held by or on behalf of any of the bodies or persons falling within paragraphs (a) to (d) above;

    (ii)in which the majority of the voting rights are held by or on behalf of any of those bodies or persons;

    (iii)a majority of whose board of directors can be appointed or removed by any of those bodies or persons; or

    (iv)in which the majority of the voting rights are controlled by any of those bodies or persons, pursuant to an agreement with other persons;

    (f)a subsidiary of a company falling within paragraph (e) above.

    (2)Expressions used in sub-paragraphs (i) to (iv) of subsection (1)(e) above and in section 736 of the M1Companies Act 1985 have the same meaning in those sub-paragraphs as they have in that section.

    The Scotton, by this, cannot set up a company for the franchise

    If they receive valid bids they have to accept one

  4. Scotton above should be ScotGov