UK MINISTERS are “deliberately picking a fight with the rail unions” rather than seeking compromise with the RMT and Network Rail, Scotland’s transport minister Jenny Gilruth has said.

Gilruth hit out against the UK Government’s handling of the ongoing pay dispute with Network Rail employees after a planned meeting between the transport minister and UK rail minister Wendy Morton was cancelled at the last minute on Wednesday, after being previously cancelled last week.

Gilruth has twice written to UK transport secretary Grant Shapps calling for a resolution to the dispute, following the widespread disruption of rail services.

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Gilruth commented: “Scotland’s interests are being harmed, Scottish employees are affected, and the UK Government doesn’t have the decency to bother to meet with us. They provide no information about what is happening, we don’t know what mandate has been giving to Network Rail, nor have we any opportunity to input meaningfully to that.”

UK ministers, added Gilruth, “are moving with sloth-like urgency on this and are completely asleep at the wheel.

“It now seems abundantly clear that they are deliberately picking a fight with the rail unions – the travelling public and local economies are merely collateral damage. They need to take their heads out of the sand and come to a reasonable and affordable compromise with the RMT and Network Rail.”

Gilruth went on to condemn the UK Government’s unveiling last week of legislation to bring in agency staff to “undermine the unions and highly trained rail staff” without any consultation with the Scottish Government.