First Minister agrees to crisis meeting on buses

Saturday September 30th 2023

McGills-Eastern-at-Gogar-Roundabout


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

The First Minister has agreed to a crisis meeting with West Lothian council to find a solution for local buses.

Humza Yousaf has promised a meeting between the Transport minister, local MSP Fiona Hyslop, and national agency Transport Scotland to find a solution to the crisis in the bus service sector.

McGills announced on Tuesday night that they will end all Eastern Scottish services in the county by December.

Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I am very pleased that the First Minister has agreed to my request and we will meet Transport Scotland and the Transport Minister as soon as possible to discuss a solution to this untenable and frightening situation for bus users.”

The Holyrood concession comes the day after senior councillors urged the Scottish Government to reinstate emergency funding put in place to help the bus sector through the Covid crisis.

The removal of that funding at the end of March triggered a wave of service cuts with the worst hitting the smallest and poorly served communities on the western fringe of West Lothian, including Greenrigg and Blackridge.

Partial restoration of these services only came about after the council agreed to subsidise buses to these villages. The new services were however less than before.

The council had also called on the Scottish Government to publish a long awaited review of bus services. The Fair Fares review was promised after the Scottish elections in 2021.

A spokesman for the council said: “Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s First Minister, has given the Leader of West Lothian Council assurances that the Transport Minister and Transport Scotland representatives will meet council representatives at the earliest opportunity to help find a solution.”

Councillor Fitzpatrick said: “The only solution is funding from the Scottish Government to support local bus services and that is a message that has come across loud and clear form the bus operators themselves.

“The council has maintained funding for a number of subsidised bus services, particularly where villages have no alternative bus service, despite a predicted £39 million budget gap over the next five years.

“What is clear to everyone is that councils don’t have the resources to meet current levels of service delivery, so we cannot find funding to solve the bus crisis.

“The scale of the budget reductions facing the council mean that the council can’t continue to deliver existing services as they are currently provided. The idea that the council can step in to fund new services is completely unrealistic and unachievable given the funding position we are in. It is our hope that the Scottish Government act now to help the bus crisis in West Lothian.”

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