Colin Smyth MSP
South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has slammed the Green-SNP Government for cutting council budgets, which could hit more rural bus routes.
The local MSP was speaking during a debate on rural buses in the Scottish Parliament last week.
He attacked the recent Green-SNP budget, which includes a real-terms cut of around £300 million for councils, will mean a real cut in more bus services in rural areas, the overwhelming majority of which rely on subsidies from the local council.
Colin Smyth said: “There is no doubt that Scotland’s diminishing bus network is in crisis, and our rural communities are paying a heavy price.
“The crisis did not start because of the pandemic, and the failures of privatisation were not caused by Covid. In Scotland, passenger numbers have been plummeting since deregulation—they went down 43 per cent between 1987 and 2020—yet fares have risen by 159 per cent since the index started, in 1995.
“That dismantling of our bus network, route by route, has accelerated under this Government, with the number of passenger journeys falling by a quarter since 2007.
“The recent Green-SNP budget, which includes a real-terms cut of around £300 million for councils, will mean a real cut in more bus services in rural areas, the overwhelming majority of which rely on subsidies from the local council. That support is under threat more than ever before. That is no way to run an essential public service on which so many rely.
“Buses still account for 366 million journeys a year in Scotland. They boost growth, they alleviate poverty and they connect communities. However, instead of providing an attractive alternative at a time when transport is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, our deregulated bus system has been turning people away from public transport and towards cars. We see that in all our communities.”
He also raised the fact that it’s been three years since he lodged amendments in the Transport Bill to lift the ban on council-run bus services, yet no action has been taken to make this a reality.
Colin Smyth added: “It is three years since I lodged amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill to lift the ban on council-run bus services, putting into practice Unite the union’s ‘haud the bus’ campaign and the Co-operative Party’s people’s bus campaign, which call for a bus network that puts passengers, not profits, first.
“Yet, this Government has still not passed on to councils the powers that I secured, never mind given them the resources that they need to set up their own publicly and community-owned bus services.
“Astonishingly, the Green-SNP coalition continues to stack the cards against public ownership, with a £500 million bus partnership fund that can be spent only on deals with private bus companies, instead of using some of that funding to set up publicly run bus companies.”