The Scottish Transport Minister has been accused of misleading members of the transport committee about who has the authority to allocate funds from the Service Quality Incentive Regime (SQUIRe).
While the Minister has denied any wrongdoing, it is clear that evidence he gave to the committee earlier in the year was not correct.
On 1st of February this year, Transport Minster Humza Yousaf told member of the committee that the decision on how to use the funds, set aside for rail service improvements, rested with the Scottish Government. He also claimed that the decision on how to use them had been agree through collaboration with Scotrail bosses.
However two weeks earlier, on the 18th of January, then Scotrail Boss Phil Verter informed members that the money that the Scottish Government has set aside for it’s free-week ticket giveaway was contractually under the control of Scotrail. He also confirmed that he had not agreed to its use for this initiative.
The release of the contract between the Transport Scotland and rail operator Abellio has confirmed Mr Verster to be correct.
North East MSP Mike Rumbles has led the investigation into the matter, and after questioning the Minister in committee today, he has now called for Mr Verster to return to the committee to settle the matter once and for all.
Mr Rumbles said: “The best thing the Minster could do now is accept that he misled committee. He may previously have been ill informed or simply misunderstood the.
“The SQUIRe funds were setup for funding improvements such as disabled access to stations, instead the Scottish Government unilaterally made the decision to use the money for a sweetener for pass holders. To make-up for months of government failures, delays and cancellations.
“The money to pay for that should have come from the Scottish Government but instead the SNP raided this Scotrail fund. It’s time for the Minister to come clean on that fact.
“The contract clearly states the role of the Scottish Government is to approve Scotrail’s use of the funds, not spend it thoughtlessly on a vanity project. The Minister told the committee that the exact opposite was the case. That was misleading and he was wrong to do so.”
Notes for editors:
- Link to official REC Committee report for 18th January 2017: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10740
- Link to official REC Committee report for 1st February 2017: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10770
- Relevant section of the franchise contract between the Scottish Government and Abellio are on page 428, paragraph 10.9 of the contract: http://www.transport.gov.scot/system/files/documents/tsc-basic-pages/Abellio%20ScotRail%20-%20Redacted%20Franchise%20Agreement%20-%20web%20version%20-%20revised%20-%20November%202016.pdf