SCOTTISH Government ministers have hit out at railway firm LNER for choosing to operate under “English guidance” and ending social distancing on trains in Scotland.

The publicly owned company provides cross-Border travel down the east coast, connecting Inverness with London.

During the pandemic LNER has enforced social distancing onboard and stopped people without a seat reservation from travelling.

But today, as England lifts Covid-19 rules on mask wearing, distancing and group meetings, the operator confirmed this would no longer be in place. In Scotland ministers advise staying at least one metre away from all other households while in an indoor public setting.

On their website LNER said as the UK Government’s guidance changed in England, people on cross-Border services may be now seated beside another passenger.

And responding to a concerned customer, LNER said: “Hi, we have made the decision to operate under English guidance, with regards to social distancing on cross border services, to provide consistency to customers. Therefore, customers may be seated next to each other when travelling from 19 July onwards.”

The National:

The company said its services will not be overcrowded as most seats will still require a reservation, while a number of unreserved seats will be provided in Coach C for standard class and Coach M for first class.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson described the decision as “unacceptable”.

“LNER services operating in Scotland should comply with the [Scottish Government] public health guidance. I’ve asked Transport Scotland officials to address this point with LNER,” he announced.

Angus Robertson, the Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary, hit out at the company’s decision online.

“LNER is a train company owned by the UK Government. Is it still maintaining that when it operates in Scotland it is going to disregard Scottish public health and safety coronavirus rules?

“This is as tenable as Boris Johnson’s exemption from social distancing regulations.”

READ MORE: LNER ends social distancing on trains in Scotland due to 'English guidance' on Covid

SNP MP John Nicolson also slammed the decision, saying it is “not acceptable”.

“When you are in Scotland your duty is to follow [Scottish Government] guidelines. You can’t pick and choose which rules & recommendations you follow,” he tweeted.

Transport Scotland has been contacted for comment.

A spokesperson for LNER told The National: “Whilst social distancing guidance remains in place in Scotland, we have taken the decision to operate the same seating/reservation approach on all our services, including our cross-Border services, to ensure a consistent experience for customers.

"To provide customers with comfortable journeys on LNER services and give confidence that trains will not be overcrowded, Seat Sure means that most seats will require a reservation. To protect the flexibility of the walk-up railway, there will be a number of unreserved seats in Coach C for Standard and a number of seats in Coach M in First Class, or Coach E in First Class in a five-coach train.

"Customers without a reservation will be able to travel in these unreserved areas of the train. To ensure customers can travel with confidence, LNER is continuing to deliver record levels of enhanced cleaning onboard its trains and in stations.”

The National has also reached out to the other cross-Border rail providers to find out how they are operating social distancing on services.