AN SNP MP has said Scotland's train operator is an "exemplar" of how to run a railway system, despite mass cancellations and pay disputes.

Gavin Newlands, the party's transport spokesman, made the comments in the Commons today during a debate on transport.

They come as Scotrail, which was nationalised last month, announced yesterday that it will cut 700 services from Monday in response to a driver shortage caused by a disagreement with the union Aslef, which has seen some drivers decline to work overtime or on rest days.

A temporary timetable could be in place for weeks, ScotRail’s service delivery director David Simpson has said.

Chris Loder, Conservative MP, questioned how Mr Newlands could herald Scotrail as a good example, given its current issues with strikes and cancellations.

He said: "I think it'd be fair to say that the rail operations in Scotland are delegated of course to Scottish Government. He will know full well that there are great difficulties with the Scottish operation underway at the moment, not least because of copious strikes, and it's very clear that the Scottish Government have allowed the unions to run the railways in Scotland, hence the difficulties, particularly on the weekends."

Mr Loder, who is a member of the Commons Transport committee alongside Mr Newlands, added: "Do you not really think that actually, before we call for too much more of what you would like in terms of independence and delegating things away from Westminster, that actually you really ought to get the house in order in Scotland first?" 

However the MP for Paisley and Renfrew said he did "not recognise" Mr Loder's comments, adding: "I don't recognise the situation that my colleague paints. The fact is, with the integrated approach to track and train in Scotland, Scotrail is actually the exemplar for the rest of the UK in how to run a rail system." 

He said earlier in the debate that the Scottish Parliament should be in full control of the railways, arging the UK Government's track record on the issue was poor.

Mr Newlands said: "Everyone concerned with transport in the UK wants to see GBR (Great British Railways) succeed and begin to put an end to the wasted years that have seen the UK left in the sidings while other European countries have quietly gone on with bringing their networks in to the 21st century.

"If the DfT (Department for Transport) and the Treasury can't match that goodwill with cold, hard cash and a change in attitudes, I fear we will be having these same debates in five, 10...20 years' time. 

"If GBR's established without changes to how rail infrastructure is governed that would be another missed opportunity to put full control of our railways where they belong - with the Scottish Parliament." 

Earlier today Nicola Sturgeon said returning Scotland's train services to normal was "vital" as she urged ScotRail and trade unions to work “in good faith” to resolve the dispute.