SCOTLAND'S rail services will be in public ownership within weeks, Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth has confirmed.

In a statement to parliament today, she said ScotRail services will move into public hands on the April 1.

The date means there's just over seven weeks for preparations to be finalised.

The Scottish Greens say passengers and staff must have a say on the future of services and Gilruth stated: "It’s clear that much work still needs to be done, and in a collaborative way, to ensure the long term sustainability of rail operations in Scotland to best meet the needs of the people we all represent.

"I want to kick-start a national conversation about what our new beginning for ScotRail should look like – an affordable, sustainable, customer-focused rail passenger service in Scotland in a post-pandemic world. I invite all members who have a genuine interest in the future of ScotRail, to get involved and work with me to shape the change that needs to happen. Change will happen on April the 1st – so let’s have a conversation about that change and let’s work together to influence how that happens. After all, we all want a railway that delivers for our constituents."

MSPs heard that the new state operator will, unlike most other public sector arm's length operations, have a public sector pay policy.

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Gilruth will consult with British Transport Police and women's organisations on safety and other issues, and will consult with transport unions tomorrow.

She said: "Our rail staff have a vital role to play in shaping and delivering a successful future railway for Scotland. Like so many of our essential workers, ScotRail staff, and indeed, all our rail workers, went above and beyond throughout the pandemic. We will always be grateful to them for all that they did to help keep our rail services running during these challenging last two years.

"We want to take all of ScotRail’s staff with us on this journey into Scottish Government ownership.

"We know the unions are passionate about the industry and through open and frank discussion we can work together to harness that aspirations for the future."

She went on: "To meet our climate change targets, and our aim of reducing car kilometres by 20% by 2030 – we need Scotland’s railways. An efficient, effective, productive and profitable railway is critical to our Mission Zero ambition for transport. We want ScotRail to deliver the rail services the people of Scotland – and the generations yet to come – need and deserve."

Scottish Greens transport spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: "I’m glad the Scottish Government have recognised that bringing the railways into public ownership is an opportunity to involve everyone in services in the future.

READ MORE: Union demands more say as ScotRail is brought into public ownership

"Just last week, we saw damaging timetable changes for Perth and Fife scrapped by ScotRail after hundreds of my constituents campaigned for change.

"And the commitment to focus on women’s safety on public transport is vitally important too. We can only encourage people to use public transport if they feel safe.

"It’s vitally important that both passengers and staff have a say in the future of Scotland’s railways, which will play a crucial role in our greener future and making the shift away from roads for both passengers and freight."

Meanwhile, Beatrice Wishart of the LibDems commented: "It’s hard to take the Scottish Government’s commitment to decarbonisation seriously when the most environmentally-friendly form of mass transportation ticks up in price year-after-year. 

"Not only that but on this SNP/Green government's watch, we are seeing fewer services and ticket offices reducing their hours."

She went on: "The new Transport Minister needs to be a minister for lower fares, new lines and a better service, not just a manager overseeing the decline of Scotland's rail service."