The Transport Minister has met with passenger groups, unions and political parties to discuss options for bringing Scotland's railways into public ownership.

Humza Yousaf said formal engagement would begin in the new year to look at creating a public sector bid for future ScotRail franchises amid ongoing criticism of performance under current operator Abellio.

Mr Yousaf has said such a bid could be ready for 2020 when a clause in the contract with Abellio would allow it to be broken.

A YouGov poll of 1,134 Scots for the Times has revealed a majority (58%) back public ownership of the railways, while 19% do not.

The same poll found a drop in satisfaction with Scotland's rail services in recent months, down from 68% to 58%.

Mr Yousaf said: "This was a very open and productive meeting to set the wheels in motion for developing a credible public sector bid for the next ScotRail franchise.

"These are the first steps toward creating a public sector operator and I welcome the contributions of passenger groups, trade unions and political parties to today's discussion.

"It is essential that as we begin this work, all parties and stakeholders clearly understand the powers the Scottish Government has and the way in which any public sector operator would be required to operate.

"Collaboration is a critical success factor, therefore it is essential we put aside party politics to work towards our common goal - a railway that befits its passengers and enables Scotland to thrive."

Stephen Boyd, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), said: "This was a constructive meeting that helped to identify the pertinent issues.

"The STUC and rail unions look forward to working with the minister, Transport Scotland and other partners over the coming months to ensure that a viable public sector bid is developed."

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: "Labour has proposed a People's ScotRail, run for passengers - not profit. We want to see a publicly-owned ScotRail at the earliest opportunity.

"The SNP said the deal with Abellio would be 'world leading' but it's not even meeting basic standards. We must not lose sight of the fact that many passengers are demanding improvements within weeks, not years.

"Passengers are fed up with overcrowded, delayed and expensive trains. It is therefore vital that the SNP Government provides a full and detailed plan for an operator of last resort should the current franchise fail."