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18 June 2019

(S5T-01727) Caledonian Sleeper Service

2. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Serco regarding the recent disruption to the Caledonian sleeper service. (S5T-01727)

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson: The Scottish Government is in daily dialogue with Caledonian sleeper on the issue and receives daily updates on train operations and new train status. The current disruption has been caused by damage to train wheels following an incident last Tuesday night, forcing withdrawal of a number of carriages. Caledonian sleeper is contacting affected passengers with service updates and with the offer of alternative travel or refunds. We anticipate that services will return to the normal schedule by the end of this week.

Stewart Stevenson: Is the technical fault with the carriage wheels believed to be a result of a one-off incident or a design flaw, or is there some other reason?

Michael Matheson: Although Serco has yet to reach a 100 per cent certain conclusion on the matter, its initial finding is that the cause of the incident leading to the wheel damage was incorrect setting up of the train control and management system, rather than a technical failure. Serco is continuing to investigate the matter.

Stewart Stevenson: Does customer feedback on the new sleeper rolling stock indicate that the service will continue to be an important contributor to our tourism industry once we have put the current difficulties behind us?

Michael Matheson: Although there have been teething problems with the new rolling stock, there is positive feedback from passengers. Caledonian sleeper reports that, in the four-week period from the launch of the new trains on 28 April, sale levels were 13 per cent higher than in previous years. There is no doubt in my mind that the new rolling stock on the Caledonian sleeper is increasing the confidence of those seeking to make use of the service. I have absolutely no doubt that the service will continue to be a significant contributor to tourism and the wider economy in the years ahead.

21 May 2019

(S5O-03258) Brexit (Immigration Discussions)

3. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the impact that Brexit could have on immigration to Scotland. (S5O-03258)

The Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development (Ben Macpherson): I have met the United Kingdom Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Nokes, twice to discuss the profoundly positive impact that migration has on Scotland’s economy and society, and there have been several other meetings between Scottish Government ministers and UK ministers to emphasise that, including between the First Minister and the Prime Minister.

Migration is crucial to Scotland’s future prosperity, and any reduction would damage our labour market, economic growth, demographic profile and local communities. The independent report from the expert advisory group on migration and population, which was published in February, states that the UK Government’s immigration proposals could lead to a reduction of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in net migration to Scotland over the next two decades, which would lead to a decline in our working-age population of up to 5 per cent.

Therefore, in all relevant meetings and correspondence, the Scottish Government has emphasised—and will keep on emphasising—the deep concerns that exist across Scotland about the proposals in the UK Government’s white paper on immigration after Brexit.

Stewart Stevenson: I do not often join with the Confederation of British Industry, but I do so in criticism of the plans for the immigration system in Scotland. Particularly in respect of people coming to Scotland to work and to contribute economically—in fishing in my constituency, in farming elsewhere, and throughout our economy—is not it important that we have devolved powers so that we can fine tune immigration to meet our specific needs?

Ben Macpherson: Yes. As Stewart Stevenson, the CBI and other business organisations have emphasised, the UK Government’s proposals in its white paper on immigration would be catastrophic for Scotland. They would send our working-age population into decline and would have a significantly negative effect on many sectors, including those that have been mentioned by Stewart Stevenson, as well as social care, tourism, construction, financial services and several others.

In opposing many of the proposals in the UK Government’s white paper on immigration, and considering Scotland’s distinct demographic challenges, we recognise that there is growing support for the Scottish Parliament to obtain additional powers as part of a UK framework, in order to tailor migration policy to meet Scotland’s needs, so that Scotland remains attractive to migrants and so that we can deliver new solutions.

(S5T-01658) ScotRail (Compensation for Delays and Cancellations)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): How many of the new class 385 sets and refurbished high-speed trains that were due to be delivered in December 2018 have not yet been delivered to ScotRail?

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson): As it stands, ScotRail has accepted 61 of the 70 class 385 sets ordered. The number is sufficient to allow ScotRail to deliver significant capacity improvements across the electrified routes in the central belt and will also allow it to redeploy the diesel trains to increase train lengths in other parts of the network. For HSTs, only four of 26 refurbished units have been accepted from Angel Trains and Wabtec Rail Scotland, alongside 14 unrefurbished classic trains, which are now operating on the seven cities routes.

I will continue to press Angel Trains and Wabtec on the issue. I met them last week to press the need for continued progress on the matter. As I have highlighted to the Parliament many times in recent weeks, there is no doubt in my mind that the delay from Hitachi in delivering the class 385s and making sure that the refurbished HSTs are delivered on time had a significant impact on ScotRail’s ability to deliver on the timetable change in December 2018. We will continue to press Wabtec, Hitachi and Angel Trains to address those matters as quickly as possible.

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