SCOTTISH Government ministers have been told to hand back the keys to their chauffeur-driven cars until the ScotRail dispute is resolved.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said SNP and Green ministers should suspend use of the £1m-a-year Government car service while rail passengers struggled with service cuts.

Mr Sarwar also revealed that, despite cutting 700 services a day as part of a pay dispute with train drivers, nationalised ScotRail was not providing any replacement bus services.

Standing in for Nicola Sturgeon, who is recuperating from Covid, deputy First Minister John Swinney appeared not to know about the bus problem and was flummoxed on the car issue.

Mr Sarwar started by telling Mr Swinney about a service station worker in Helensburgh forced to spend £20 on a taxi to travel home to Dumbarton at the end of her evening shift. 

Mr Swinney said he sympathised entirely, and said it illustrated the importance of talks today between ScotRail and the Aslef union, which has rejected a 2.2 per cent pay rise.

He said:  “We have to resolve the dispute. I encourage ScotRail and the trade unions to reach a conclusion.” 

Mr Sarwar siad: "Unlike the deputy first minister, Leanne doesn't have a ministerial car to get home."

When SNP MSPs groaned, Mr Sarwar snapped at them: "You can hum and haw all you like, this is real lived experience." 

He went on: "In the middle of a cost of living crisis, she has to spend £20 on a taxi.

“That means she has to work two hours just to pay to get home. 

“That's the reality for thousands of people across the country."

He then asked Mr Swinney how many of the trains cut because of the dispute had been replaced by a free bus service.

The deputy First Minister failed to give a direct answer, speaking instead about train driver numbers and negotiations.

Mr Sarwar said he had sent a WhatsApp message to ScotRail asking about how many replacement bus services there were and was told, ‘No, there isn’t any’.” 

He said: “In the middle of a cost of living crisis, this SNP-Green Government are leaving people stranded, with no public transport, and asking them to use gas-guzzling vehicles instead. What this failure means in practice is tens of thousands of people struggling to get to and from work. More people out of pocket and made poorer, millions lost for local businesses, and the industries that suffered so much during Covid taking another hit.

“While this deputy First Minister and his colleagues have 28 chauffeur-driven cars, costing £1m, to get into and from their work, this SNP-Green Government is cutting 1000 rail services fay, offering no replacement bus services, and forcing people to work hours just to pay for a taxi home. 

“Shouldn’t he and every other minister hand back the keys to their ministerial chauffeur cars until they get this sorted and get Scotland moving again?”

Mr Swinney said the Government was providing “practical help” with the cost of living, citing the doubling of the devolved Scottish child payment benefit and council tax support.

He then switched tack completely to talk about power sharing deals in councils.

“What is the Labour party doing? The Labour Party is getting into bed with the Tory party in council administrations around the country.”

Afterwards, the First Minister’s official spokesman was asked if Scottish ministers would stop using the Government car service during the ScotRail dispute.

He said: “I don’t think so. Ministers need to get around as part of the job. So they will continue to do that job in the way they usually do it.”

Asked if it looked bad for ministers to be ferried around while others struggled to work, he said: “They’ve got a job to do and they will get on with doing it in the normal way.”