THE Scottish Government announced earlier this month when the nation’s railways would be taken into public ownership after a tumultuous partnership with Abellio.  

After several strikes and reports of Abellio’s poor performance, Scottish Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth announced that ScotRail will be publicly owned from April 1.   

Here’s a background of what has led to the SNP government’s takeover.  

The Pandemic

During lockdown, the service suffered a severe drop in passenger numbers resulting in the Scottish Government having to pump £452 million into keeping ScotRail afloat. Former transport minister Michael Matheson went on to comment that the service was “broken” and “not working in the taxpayers' interest”. 

The National: Matheson was critical of Abellio's performance running ScotrailMatheson was critical of Abellio's performance running Scotrail (Image: Michael Matheson — PA)

As restrictions began to ease the service continued to be plagued by disaster. It was announced in March 2021 that Abellio failed to meet performance criteria to trigger a three-year extension of their contract.  

Matheson confirmed that the railways would be taken into public ownership in keeping with the Scottish Government's Operator of Last Resort duty. 

He said: "I have repeatedly stated the current franchising system is no longer fit for purpose ...

"That is why I have confirmed that, from the expiry of the current franchise, ScotRail services will be provided in public hands through a company wholly owned and controlled by the Scottish Government."

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Industrial Action

In October 2021, The RMT union went on strike over a pay dispute that lasted over seven months with no trains running on Sundays from March to November last year.  

The row came to a head when RMT announced that there would be a service-wide strike during COP26, when the eyes of the world would be on Glasgow.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "Both ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper have had adequate time to come up with a fair pay settlement for Scotland's rail workers in advance of COP26. Instead they have kicked the can down the road and left us with no option but to put this action on today."

ScotRail bosses eventually climbed down from their position after offering a backdated 2.5% pay rise in a bid to have trains running during the conference.  


It was announced last week that ScotRail would be nationalised by April 1 as the SNP looked to fulfill their 2021 manifesto pledge and bring the service into public ownership. 

The SNP have pledged to bring Scotrail into line with their Fair Work First policy as they will look to limit appetite for future industrial action. This will include payment of the living wage and trade union recognition.  

One of the key areas that the SNP will look to improve upon is making the service completely carbon neutral by 2030. They claim that before the pandemic 75% of all passenger journeys were on net-zero emission trains and have said they plan to take this further.  

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Commenting on the takeover, Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, said: “It’s clear that rail privatisation has been a colossal failure, so it’s incredibly positive that ScotRail is being taken into public ownership.  

“Public ownership gives a real chance for a rail system that is fit for the 21st century, and it offers a chance for passengers and workers to have a say in how our railways are run. 

“But it isn’t a panacea, the Scottish Government must commit to proper funding and investment, alongside public ownership, to remedy decades of privatisation.”