ScotRail has been the brand name used for all Scottish regional and commuter rail services, including some cross-border services, since 1983. Since 2008, It is the permanent name of the Scottish franchised rail services, regardless of the train operating company that operates them.
When First Group became the franchisee in 17 October 2004, in line with other rail franchises it held, the brand was revised as First ScotRail, having outbid National Express. In September 2008, the Scottish Government agency, Transport Scotland, announced that the franchised Scottish rail services would be permanently renamed ScotRail.
When ScotRail was created by BR, services were operated by a variety of diesel locomotives and coaching stock together with diesel and electric multiple units. Prior to the introduction of Class 156 and Class 158DMUs by British Rail, services were operated by slam-door stock such as the Class 101 DMUs. The slam door DMU were replaced by Class 156 from 1987 to 1989 and Class 158 units from 1989 to 1992.
As the first franchisee, National Express ordered a total of 55 Class 170 units from 1999-2004 (First would receive the last of the units ordered by National Express and would later transfer four units from its Hull Trains subsidiary) and by 2004, the only slam door services were also the only locomotive hauled services, the Caledonian Sleeper services from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William along with a single regional service between Edinburgh Waverley and North Berwick.
ScotRail, since privatisation, has contracted EWS to haul the Caledonian Sleeper between London and Scotland. EWS operate a dedicated pool of five Class 90 electric locomotives to haul the Caledonian Sleeper between London Euston and Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central, together with a fleet of Class 67 diesel locomotives to haul the various sleeper portions north of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Class 37 diesel locomotives were used in place of the Class 67 locomotives, primarily on the West Highland Line, an arrangement which continued under First Group through to 2006.
ScotRail, under BR, used customised versions of the existing British Rail liveries, with passenger locomotives and coaching stock painted in a lightly modified version of the InterCity Executive livery. The red stripe was replaced with a saltire blue stripe, and the InterCity name was replaced with the ScotRail name. Diesel and Electric multiple units carried normal versions of the Regional Railways livery. In the SPT area, rolling stock (DMU and EMU) was painted in Strathclyde Orange.
The first unique ScotRail livery was introduced shortly after privatisation under National Express, who introduced their own livery. Initially, vehicles received the new ScotRail logo applied with vinyl stickers; a stylised outline of Scotland composed of three flashes in the corporate colours of green, red and purple. Multiple units were painted into the new livery with bodies in white (lower half) and purple (upper half) with green, red and white stripes bordering the purple, overlain by and a wide diagonal white band in the centre of the carriage. There were no units left with Regional Railways livery in Scotland at the end of the National Express franchise period, although the Class 305 electric units retained it until withdrawal in 2001. The latter were replaced by ex-Stansted SkytrainClass 322 units which were never repainted under the National Express franchise, receiving only ScotRail logo transfers. When the Class 322 hire ended in 2004, they were replaced on the North Berwick branch by EWSClass 90electric locomotives hauling former Virgin TrainsMk.3 coaching stock, in the old Virgin red and grey livery, again with ScotRail logo transfers.
When First originally acquired the franchise, a new regional livery of pink, grey and purple and a new logo of a pink circle and an italicised "f" character was introduced. Legislation requiring train doors to be painted in a contrasting colour to the body for visually impaired passengers resulted in white doors with a pink stripe. Like National Express, First applied their logo on units by transfer until repainting. A large number of units were re-branded into this livery, including the Class 322 units re-acquired (and refurbished) for North Berwick service and the Class 90 locomotives used on Caledonian Sleeper services.
The SNP government and Transport Scotland have come up with a new livery which will be applied to all of Scotland's trains, when they go into maintenance. The new livery is dark blue background, with grey doors and a white dotted 'Saltire' Scottish flag. A new logo is also applied, ScotRail, with the tag line 'Scotland's Railway'. Stations and staff uniforms are also getting a new look - dark blue. This livery is not going to be replaced when the franchise ends, the only branding showing the operator will be a small "ScotRail is operated by" sign on the station building and on the train doors.