Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has questioned the Scottish Government once again on when powers which will allow councils to directly run bus companies in their area will come into play.

In 2019 the Scottish Parliament passed a new Transport Act that gives councils a range of new powers when it comes to bus services. This will include the right to directly deliver bus services thanks to amendments made to the legislation by Colin Smyth lifting the ban on councils running bus routes.

The historic law change secured by the local MSP means councils could have the power to run bus services directly or through setting up arms-length municipal bus companies with either model free to compete for any service or franchise.

Currently the only publicly owned municipal bus company in Scotland is Lothian Buses, whose existence pre-dates deregulation.

Colin Smyth questioned Transport Minister Graeme Dey on the subject in the Scottish Parliament last week.

Speaking in the debating chamber, Colin Smyth said: “We will not get people out of their cars unless we put in place public transport alternatives.

“The minister said that regulations for the workplace parking tax were laid before Parliament, but more than two years after I secured amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill to give councils the power to set up publicly owned bus services, there is no sign of the regulations to deliver those.

“When will those powers be given to councils? How much additional funding will be given to councils to set up those bus companies, so that we can reverse the massive decline in bus usage that we have seen under this Government?”

Speaking after the debate, Colin Smyth continued: “While we all understand that the pandemic has delayed many policies, the Government can’t use it as an excuse forever.

“In recent years we have seen the bus network being dismantled route by route, fares have risen and passenger numbers plummeted, because big private bus firms have put profit before passengers.

“These cuts have been felt most by our rural communities but have also affected everyone trying to travel at nights and weekends when often there are no buses running anymore.

“After 35 years of deregulation, the bus network is in decline and strong, empowered local government can transform services for the better.”

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