Scotland’s transport minister has accused unions of a lack of respect after being  accused of lying over the newly nationalised ScotRail dispute that has led to major cuts to national rail services.

 Jenny Gilruth faced allegations of “lying” after claiming she could not intervene personally in the wage storm.

 Mick Hogg, the Scottish regional organiser of the RMT, said the transport minister held the key to the settlement and accused her of lying when she advised she wants the unions and ScotRail to get round the negotiating table.

And train drivers union Aslef's Scottish organiser, Kevin Lindsay, accused ministers of “inflammatory, unreasonable, and factually incorrect” statements in blaming its members for the pay dispute impasse.

Aslef is expected to enter informal discussions with ScotRail today (Tuesday) in the dispute over a 2% pay offer before the possibility of formal negotiations on Thursday.

Ms Gilruth spoke out after being questioned by MSPs about the lying allegations and the ministers' involvement in trying to settle the ongoing pay dispute which has let to the timetable being cut by a third from Monday.

She said: "I have read in recent days some press reports as you may understand, and I have participated in numerous media appearances.... I've got to say in terms of the respectful tone between government and trade unions, the use of that word [lying] I don't find particularly respectful.

"I don't think it's accurate either. I spent a lot of time as you know, at the start of my appointment with our trade union partners to try and bring them into the conversation about the future of Scotland's trains.

READ MORE: Union blasts hits out over 'inflammatory' stance in blaming train drivers for nationalised ScotRail cuts

"They have to be part of this to make it a success. We're not in private ownership anymore. This is public ownership. And the government of course is accountable to all of Scotland, not just in terms of ScotRail trains....

HeraldScotland:

"I'm the transport minister, so I accept responsibility. But at this moment in time, we have an industrial dispute and it would not be appropriate as it doesn't happen in any other part of government, for ministers to be in the room taking part in those negotiations. ScotRail is the employer.

"Now I'm absolutely committed to working with ScotRail to make sure that this works and we get to a quick resolution. I think that's what voters want to see. I know that's what passengers want to see."

The state-controlled service axed 700 rail services from Monday due to a lack of drivers meaning that the last trains leaving Scotland’s main cities were leaving much earlier than usual curtailing nights out and hitting Scotland's pubs, clubs and restaurants.

The cuts came after over 1800 trains were cancelled at the last minute over 15 days and  just over seven weeks after ScotRail was taken into public ownership by the Scottish Government in what ministers hailed a “historic” move.

ScotRail says the temporary but indefinite timetable has come as a result of the drivers pay dispute which has meant some refusing to take up the option of working rest days and Sundays, crucial to keep trains running in Scotland.

Asked why Scottish ministers are not getting directly involved in the process to ensure that there are not massive cuts to rail services, the transport minister said she did not accept that that was an accurate description on what was happening.

"On Friday, I spent a considerable part of the day with ScotRail and yesterday I met with ScotRail... to discuss some of the challenges around about the current situation. It's not the case, though that Scottish ministers are in the room of course, ScotRail the employer will be in the room negotiating with Aslef.

"It is absolutely essential that we get to a restoration of the previous timetable. However, you will appreciate ScotRail can't fulfil the previous timetable, because it doesn't have enough drivers to do so.

HeraldScotland:

"ScotRail like many train operators across the UK depends upon drivers working on the rest days. Now drivers working on rest days, is a historic thing that exists in the rail industry. It's not something that's come into existence under nationalisation of our trains. It relies upon primarily goodwill of drivers.

"Now, I understand Aslef are in dispute with ScotRail. I absolutely respect that. They balloted their members on the pay offer. This is a separate issue because drivers are choosing not to work on rest days. If drivers want to spend time with their families or take part in leisure pursuits, then that's in their gift, of course. But it's also the case that ScotRail can't run as many trains as would usually be the case under the previous timetable."

She told MSPs on the net zero, energy and transport committee: "I know that passengers are scunnered. Services that we currently are experiencing are not good enough. We need to restore services. But it's also true to say that we will not get to that restoration of services until we get a resolution between ScotRail and between Aslef the drivers union, and I'm committed to ensuring that we get to that place as quickly as possible to give passengers that reassurance they need to make sure that nationalisation is working."

Last week the transport minister described the practice of rest day working as “outdated” and that the Scottish Government was looking to phase it out.

She also said ScotRail would not have to rely on it when the delayed driver training has been completed and that this was expected to take a few months.

But ministers have confirmed that the vast majority of a new batch of drivers will not be trained up by the end of this year.

HeraldScotland:

And both Aslef and RMT have said that the recruitment of 130 drivers announced by ministers to try and end the rest day working issues was nowhere near enough.

Of 130 would-be drivers that are in the system, 38 drivers were expected to be trained by the end of the summer, rising to 55 by the end of the year and to 100 by June 2023. It is estimated it takes a minimum of 18 months to train up a driver.

Scottish Conservatives feared that meant that cuts revealed in a new “temporary” timetable will remain in place in 2024 because of the delay in training.

The service is reliant on drivers doing overtime to work on normal rest days to keep trains running. Unions say the service is run on a six-day per week basis with Sunday not classed as a working day. The train drivers union Aslef argued the ScotRail system has always been "understaffed" and that working rest days and Sundays was optional.