jimtoggleJim O’Neill backs freezing Scotrail fares, points out that the Tories’ ballooning national debt is getting far less coverage than it should, and marks the passing of Fidel Castro.


Of all the great decisions with which the new Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has made life better for the people of the metropolis, the most welcome has been the decision to freeze the fares on all public transport until 2020. Given that public transport is most likely to be used by the poorer residents, this most progressive of decisions is an exercise in redistribution which is worthy of Gordon Brown at his best and establishes Mayor Khan at the heart of the traditional Labour Party.

Kez Dugdale’s plan to freeze train fares, while intended to benefit the pockets of rail users in Scotland, comes from a different route. Kez has led the campaign against the failings of Abellio/Scotrail, and her recent successes have included forcing the First Minister to apologise to the passengers of Scotrail, and forcing the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, actually to meet the people he and his Government are failing. Now, Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to consider the Scottish Labour plan to freeze the inflated fares paid by Scotrail passengers, which seem to be going to keep down the fares for Dutch passengers of Netherlands National Railways, the owners of Abellio.

The reason for the proposed freeze is simple. Abellio has consistently failed the people of Scotland with their performance, in timekeeping, in overcrowding, and in their relationship with their staff. Indeed, the single manning dispute was unnecessarily manufactured out of nowhere by the Abellio management when some judicious discussion with RMT leaders could have resolved it without trouble.

Coupled with the reported £1m per month profit possibly being repatriated to the Netherlands, the folly of selling off our railway to the State Railways of the Netherlands has been shown to be an absolute disaster, as we predicted at the time. Thus, why reward failure by charging the long-suffering passengers more for continued failure?

Before the last election, the Co-operative Party and the drivers’ union ASLEF came up with a report which made the case for a People’s Scotrail. Copies of the report are still available from the Co-operative Party. Scottish Labour has adopted this policy and have now started a Freeze our Fares petition to tell the Scottish Government the extent of the anger of Scottish travellers. Information about both is available from our Shadow Transport Spokesperson, Neil Bibby MSP. Once again Labour is showing themselves the most credible of the Scottish opposition parties.

The last ever Autumn statement was, as Have I got News for You noted, most memorable for … being the last ever Autumn Statement. All the Chancellor’s announcements, allegedly made to help Theresa May’s JAMS (those just about managing), failed to address the welfare cuts already announced by his predecessor, George Osborne, which will wipe out any marginal gains from this Statement and much much more. And as more and more claimants move on to the badly designed Universal Credit, the JAMs will become even more impoverished.

What seems to have been forgotten in all this is the growth of Britain’s national debt, now over £3 trillions. Throughout the last Labour Government, the national debt was reduced year on year, but the Coalition and now the Tory Government, though their failed austerity policies, have managed to increase it to some 91% of Britain’s GDP, a totally unsustainable level. Surely it is time for our media to focus on that instead of hammering the alleged benefit cheats!

Finally, farewell Fidel Castro. Having grown up in the fifties sixties and seventies, he was one of my great revolutionary heroes alongside his revolutionary partner, the Argentine doctor, Ernesto Che Guevara. I acknowledge that many of his policies kept many of his countrymen poor, and he continued a long-term clampdown on opposition, but given the experience of the US supported Batista government, the implacable opposition and embargo by the United States and the 634 attempts at assassination by the CIA and Florida based Cubans, this is understandable. These included the US funded invasion at the Bay of Pigs, a disastrous failure.

On the positive side, he gave Cubans free education and healthcare for all and their achievements in sports were lauded at Olympics after Olympics. He also actively supported the Anti-Apartheid movements in South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique, and the left-wing revolutionary movements throughout Central and South America. No matter what view you have of Fidel Castro, it cannot be denied that he was one of the great political figures of the Twentieth Century.

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8 thoughts on “Freeze the fares

  1. I despair of Me O’Neil. He lives in his own wee world where Scottish (sic) Labour make meaningful contributions to the political discourse and everyone is expected to just forget what Labour actually said or did in the past.

    Labour DID advocate the eventual establishment of a “People’s Railway” but NOT until AFTER the current franchise was awarded and had run its course. “Scottish” (sic) Labour’s own “Powers for a Purpose” document from 2014 categorically states Labour would have done the same thing the SNP did over the rail franchise in 2015. That is, tendered the franchise for the period of 2015-25 and THEN looked at a nationalised “People’s Railway for Scotland”.This is a fact and a point I have made on more than one occasion to Mr O’Neil, but he seems to believe if he ignores it and keeps pedalling the lie that Scottish (sic) Labour would have nationalised the railways if we’d only voted for them in 2011, people will eventually start believeing it.

    The rest of his sad “wha’s like Scottish (sic) Labour”, SNPbad Scotrail diatribe is delusional, political point scoring on an issue that has been blown out of all proportion for that very reason. Can Labour Hame not do better than this?

    1. Please note that I said The Co-operative Party and ASLEF came up with the idea of a People’s Scotrail, which Labour eventually adopted. If you are going to criticise me, please get your facts right

  2. So Scottish Labour, our wee irrelevant middle class party want to freeze rail fares. To impress their few middle class supporters no doubt, and paid for in part by the taxes of ordinary workers who are worse off now than in 2008, and whose income decline will continue as far ahead as we can see. Milk the poor and struggling workers–way to go Labour!

    “People railway”. Whit a hoot! The same imposters who would have *privatised* their grannies teeth just a few years ago, now pretend to be all for publicly owned utilities. Aye right!

    Castro was a HERO for Cubans, until he turned out to be just another brutal dictator.
    Sure he educated children and had decent health care, but he had enough public support to have fostered demcracy and spat in the eye of the USA–but he liked himself more than he liked the people.
    Sadly strong people like to have power over the weak—-but so do strong countries.

  3. while we are at it why do Stagecoach raise their fares in towns where there is no opposition. perhaps the scot gov would ask if he did not donate so mutch money to the snp

    1. Probably why First do the same thing. They’ve just slashed services in the Falkirk area.

      Interesting that there’s very little criticism of First, who are a complete blight on Scottish public transport.

      1. did not mention first they don’t operate here. years ago Stagecoach made a move on First routes in Glasgow . First retaliated by moving in on the Ayrshire no 11 Kilmarnock Arrdrosan route. they both spent weeks and a small fortune not charging fares customers very happy. then I think Stagecoach blinked first and pulled out of First Glasgow routes. First pulled out of Ayrshire fares were put back on with no warning in the middle of the day. I sympathise with you these big companies can and do pull out of routes when it suits them. they can be made to respond to public pressure good luck. keep me updated

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