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by Louise Wilson
18 August 2021
STUC calls for publicly owned buses to tackle climate change and support local economies

Lothian Buses is the UK's biggest municipal bus company | Shutterstock

STUC calls for publicly owned buses to tackle climate change and support local economies

Local authorities should establish their own publicly owned bus services, the trade union umbrella body has said.

The STUC is urging the Scottish Government to provide financial support to enable municipal bus companies to be set up and has invited councils across Scotland to back the campaign.

North Ayrshire Council has already signed up to the ‘Our Climate: Our Buses’ campaign, alongside environmental groups, anti-poverty campaigners and Labour and the Scottish Greens.

STUC general secretary Roz Royer said: “Buses are crucial to tackling climate change, reducing social isolation and boosting local economies. But Scotland’s buses are not up to scratch.  Rather than lining the pockets of shareholders, we need to take back control of our buses so they are run by the people for the people.”

Analysis by the STUC found fares have risen by 19 per cent in the last five years, while patronage has dropped by 12 per cent over the same period.

It also said almost half (49 per cent) of revenue for the bus industry comes from subsidies from local and central government. It warns that continuing with this partnership route with private operators risks communities being left behind.

Cllr Joe Cullinane, who is the Labour leader of North Ayrshire Council, said: “The Scottish Government is spending vast amounts of public money subsidising the profits of those bus companies whilst allowing them to cut vital bus services with no regard for the communities who rely on them.

“That’s why North Ayrshire Council wants to intervene in the bus market through municipally owned bus services run for people not profit. However, for this to happen, we need financial support from the Scottish Government.”

Climate campaigners say better support for public ownership of transport would help meet Scotland’s emissions targets by taking more private vehicles off the road.

And poverty campaigners warn the current ownership model means buses are “unaffordable, inadequate and inaccessible”.

Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly said: “Public ownership of bus services would allow us to re-design the way they are delivered – for example by expanding free travel for people on low incomes – so that they work for everyone.”

The campaign has been backed the Scottish Labour. The party’s transport spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Greater public ownership and control over buses will deliver better outcomes for people and planet, instead of services being axed and profits leaking out of communities at the expense of those facing the greatest disadvantage.”

And Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater, who is reportedly up for a ministerial position as part of the forthcoming deal with the SNP, added: “Public transport is an absolutely fundamental part of tackling Scotland’s climate emissions, and the Scottish Greens are clear bus services should serve communities not shareholders.”

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