Plans for substantially slower train journeys between Perth and Edinburgh could deter thousands of tourists from travelling to see the Stone of Destiny.
Perth’s three leading SNP politicians – MSPs John Swinney, Jim Fairlie and MP Pete Wishart – have raised the issue.
The ScotRail proposals mean passengers travelling from Perth to Edinburgh will swap trains at Stirling or travel around the Fife circle.
The Fife circle option would add approximately 20 minutes on to an already lengthy journey, the three politicians argue.
The Perth trio said the timetable change had angered local commuters as they called for a re-think.
What could train changes mean for Fair City’s tourism drive?
The Stone of Destiny is set to become the centrepiece of the £26.5 million Perth City Hall museum. It is due to open in 2024.
It is estimated the display could bring an extra 163,000 visitors to the city each year.
But Mr Swinney, Fairlie and Wishart suggest the changes – if implemented – could strip the shine from the stone’s much heralded homecoming.
Their shared consultation response states: “It is likely that Perth will see increased footfall in the years ahead, with the relocation of the Stone of Destiny to a newly renovated Perth City Hall.
“It is therefore vital that strong public transport links are kept in place between Scotland’s major population centres.”
Edinburgh sits at the heart of the Scottish tourism industry, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and around a third of total overnight tourism expenditure.
Deputy first minister calls for service ‘erosion’ rethink
Scottish Government deputy first minister John Swinney said numerous constituents have contacted him to complain about the rail service “erosion”.
He added: “These proposed changes will negatively impact all rail users in Perth and the surrounding areas who travel to Edinburgh.
“Whether they are travelling for work, to meet family or simply to visit the capital, the journeys of my constituents will be needlessly complicated or elongated.
“I would urge Scotrail to reconsider these proposals and to reflect upon the level of opposition in the local community to these plans.”
The Scottish Government will take ownership of the ScotRail franchise from March next year.
If agreed, the timetable changes will apply from May 2022 – months after the Scottish Government has assumed control.
On launching a consultation on its revised timetable, a ScotRail spokesman said a “new, better performing” timetable will be a “foundation to encourage a return to public transport following the pandemic.”
The first minister confirmed plans to move the stone from Edinburgh to Perth in December last year. It is the ancient crowning seat for Scottish royalty.