The transport minister says ScotRail emergency timetable which has cut nationalised ScotRail service by up to half may remain in place for weeks despite a 'breakthrough' in the train drivers dispute.

Jenny Gilruth gave the update while being asked what measures were being taken to deal with industrial action by rail workers.

Only five ScotRail routes are in service today the second day of a three-day strike in a separate UK-wide dispute. That involves 40,000 National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers staff with Network Rail - which owns the UK's rail tracks, stations and signals – over plans to axe hundreds of critical maintenance jobs, pay and working conditions. All are in the central belt of Scotland and the last train was to depart before 6.30pm.

It comes as an emergency timetable, which has cut ScotRail services by up by a third on weekdays due to staff shortages, remains in place across the Scottish network in a separate ScotRail dispute over pay with the train drivers union Aslef. The pay offer is due to be put to drivers.

Both disputes are due to lead to Scots services being cut by half on the days following official strike days with ScotRail explaining that signal boxes - critical to ensure that the railway can operate safely - will be re-opening at different times throughout the day.

Two weeks ago, trains drivers' union negotiators recommended acceptance of a deal that it was hoped would end the pay dispute which has led to the emergency timetable.

They recommended acceptance of a 5% pay deal after negotiations with the nationalised rail operator's management. A bonus scheme based on performance would take that up to nearer 10%.

ScotRail, which was nationalised on April 1, said the emergency timetable, which has meant 700 daily service cuts, came as a result of the drivers' pay dispute which has meant some refusing to take up the option of working rest days and Sundays.

HeraldScotland: People walking past a ScotRail train

The emergency timetable which has seen services cut by half on Sundays, was brought in because the network relies on drivers working Sundays and rest days to keep trains running - a move the nationalised rail operator is hoping to change.

Ms Gilruth said that the train drivers action was not formal industrial action.

She said: "I accept that. In relation to the position that we have in Scotland, of course we are running at this moment in time a reduced timetable. I'm hopeful we'll be able to reintroduce the former full timetable in the coming weeks."

Aslef said that the ScotRail deal had represented a "breakthrough and significant progress".

Aslef initially rejected a 2.2% pay offer, before later being offered 4.2% and improved conditions.

Ms Gilruth said in the separate RMT dispute, she  had written to both Network Rail and the UK transport secretary Grant Shapps outlining this government's position on no compulsory redundancies and "urging all parties to resume talks to ensure a quick and timely resolution".

In a letter to RMT on June 20, Network Rail gave notice that it would initiate a formal process that would allow 1,800 redundancies from July 1. The employer added it would incorporate compulsory redundancies if necessary.

The RMT has claimed Mr Shapps was refusing to allow Network Rail to “withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.” Mr Shapps denies this.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said the rail strikes have had a "devastating impact on the theatre, live music and hospitality industries", It added: "Our night time economy relies heavily on the rail network to bring our audiences and staff safely to and from our venues, with 81% of London theatre-goers using public transport and a similar proportion of hospitality customers."

And Ms Gilruth questioned about what the Scottish Government is doing for the culture sector said: "I recognise it has been a deeply challenging time for our theatres and more broadly for the culture sector, who had to contend with of course, the imposition of pandemic restrictions until quite far into last year. "

RMT has rejected a pay offer from Network Rail and train operators worth up to 3%. The union has indicated it wants a pay rise offer representative of a cost of living settlement that is in-line with inflation, which hit 9.1% in May, its highest level in 40 years.