DOUGLAS Ross has urged Nicola Sturgeon to apologise after a third of ScotRail trains were cut just a month after the Scottish Government nationalised the service.

The Scottish Tory leader accused the First Minister's administration of "terrible" negotiations.

Sturgeon said she will always take the time to apologise to any passengers who are affected by the disruption to the service.

The SNP leader, speaking during First Minister's Questions, stressed that the timetable is only temporary.

READ MORE: ScotRail timetable cuts could last weeks, operator concedes

Ross joined Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in challenging the FM on Scotland's railways.

Ross said the cuts would have a major impact on both passengers and businesses. He said the result would be "devastating" on Scottish firms, particularly those in city centres.

He compared the Scottish Government's handling of the rail service to the ferries scandal. But Sturgeon said that fares in Scotland are on average 20% cheaper than in England.

He said: "In just seven weeks since the SNP took control passengers have faced chaos and disruption. 

"Every day hundreds of services have been cancelled often at the very last minute. First Minister, will you apologise to the thousands of passengers?"

Ross stopped as voices from the SNP benches were heard saying "here we go".

The Scottish Tory leader continued: "Here we go, the SNP members say. Yes, well here we go. First Minister will you apologise to the thousands of passengers who have faced its disruption since the SNP took control of Scotland's railways."

Sturgeon replied: "I always express apologies to anybody, whether on rail services or any other services, who are not getting the standard of service they deserve.

"ScotRail has taken the decision to put in place the temporary timetable that has been made necessary by the decision of some drivers not to take up the option of overtime Sunday and rest day working as part of a pay dispute."

Sturgeon said the operator decided the temporary timetable cut was "preferable to unplanned cancellations".

But she stressed that it is "vital" to get the timetable back to normal "as quickly as possible".

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Sturgeon said everyone wanted to see a fair pay award to drivers, who are paid £50,000 a year, but that the agreement should be "affordable".

Ross said "'sorry' didn't come out her mouth" as he went on to warn more services could be cut.

Replying, Sturgeon said: "I think Douglas Ross decides what he wants to hear and what he doesn't want to hear.

"I think the problem for him is that other people are listening to my answer as well."

Sarwar also challenged the First Minister on the performance of ScotRail.

He asked if making the biggest cuts to railways in a half a century was "what she had in mind".

Sturgeon reiterated that it was a temporary timetable, adding it was better than unplanned cancellations.

Sarwar went on to criticise Sturgeon over an increase in rail fares in Scotland. 

The SNP leader suggested her Scottish Labour counterpart was "deliberately mixing up things".

She added that the Scottish Government is working on ensuring the issue of timetable cuts remains temporary, adding that she hopes a deal can be reached between ScotRail and unions over pay issues.