The RMT union is to ballot ScotRail conductors for industrial action in a dispute over driver-only train services.
RMT, which is opposed to the extension of driver-only and driver-controlled services during the lifetime of the current Abellio ScotRail franchise, said it had not received the assurances it had sought on the issue from the operator.
These included guarantees the safety role of conductors and their role in operating train doors would not be reduced or abolished.
The union will begin balloting guards over a two-week period beginning on Tuesday.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the dispute had been declared after numerous meetings with the operator.
He said any extension of driver-operated or controlled trains would be “a clear attack” on the terms and conditions of members.
Mr Cash said: “RMT members should not have to face the risk of their role and responsibilities being reduced and undermined.
“There is also a very real threat to passengers of watering down and wiping out the safety-critical role of the guard on these ScotRail services. That is a lethal gamble with basic rail safety.
“Those in charge of the Scottish Government cannot be allowed to wash their hands of the lethal scandal of de-staffing on Scotland’s railways that is being cooked up on their watch.
“As well as the industrial campaign, RMT will be stepping up the political and public pressure over the extension of DOO (driver only operation) at the same time.
“RMT is in no doubt that our members will stand together and demonstrate the strength of feeling across the ScotRail network during this dispute. The union remains available for further talks.”
ScotRail managing director Phil Verster described the ballot as “inexplicable”, pointing out there were no plans to extend the number of driver-controlled services, also known as driver dispatched trains.
He said talks with union representatives over the introduction of new electric and high speed inter-city fleets on Scotland’s rail network had been suspended by London-based RMT officials.
Mr Verster said he believed the company was being “needlessly dragged” into a dispute between the union and other train operators in London and the South East of England, where proposals have been tabled on the use of such trains.
More than half (57%) of ScotRail passengers travel on a driver-controlled service, meaning that the driver has responsibility for safely opening and closing the train doors with a second member of on-train staff responsible for customer service, collecting tickets and on-train safety.
ScotRail said the method of operation had been in place in Scotland with the agreement of trade unions since 1986.
Mr Verster said: “The best way to find common ground is through talks, not strikes.
“I believe that we are being needlessly dragged into a dispute that the RMT is having in London.
“If we can move away from that, if we can have talks with the union officials here in Scotland, I know that we can avoid industrial action.”