Finnie questions bus services funding reduction

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Bus patronage is falling year on year, yet Scottish Government Ministers are doing nothing about it. John Finnie MSP

Following questions to the Minister for Public Finance & Digital Economy. Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has called on the Scottish Government to prioritise the provision of bus services, in light of a reduction in support for bus services in its draft budget

One third of households in Scotland do not have access to a car, and over three quarters of public transport journeys take place by bus, yet the Scottish Government’s transport policies seem designed to move passengers into motor cars. Last year Mr Finnie launched the Better Buses campaign, to gather the experiences of bus users, and potential bus users, across the country.

Mr Finnie questioned the minister in the Scottish Parliament today (9 Jan 2019), highlighting that although Scottish Ministers have been extremely keen to quote from Professor Philip Alston’s UN Report, which is critical of the UK Government, little has been said of the section of the report which says: “Transport, especially in rural areas, should be considered an essential service, equivalent to water and electricity, and the government should regulate the sector to the extent necessary to ensure that people living in rural areas are adequately served. Abandoning people to the private market in relation to a service that affects every dimension of their basic well-being is incompatible with human rights requirements.”

John Finnie MSP said:

“Buses are a necessity to people across the country, yet the Scottish Government treats bus services as the poor relation when deciding its transport priorities. The current system of unregulated private operators cherry picking preferred routes is unsustainable; it does not offer the good quality services that communities are crying out for. Bus patronage is falling year on year, yet Scottish Government Ministers are doing nothing about it.

“The current Transport Bill presents an excellent opportunity to improve services, but the Scottish Government’s timid plans fail miserably. Local Councils must be empowered to run services for the benefit of our communities. Instead of bringing forward this much needed radical change, it seems that the same flawed setup, only this time with even less public funding, is the government’s answer. This is the worst of all worlds, and will leave an increasing number of people, particularly in rural and island communities, cut off.”

“I will be seeking to amend the Transport Bill to improve bus services across the country. In the meantime the very least the Scottish Government can do is maintain the funding it provides for what is an essential public service.”