Scottish Labour wants councils to have power to create bus companies

Councils across Scotland should be allowed to establish municipal bus companies, Scottish Labour has suggested.

MSPs will this week debate the Scottish Government’s Transport Bill, which aims to bring changes throughout the country.

The bill includes plans to give local councils and regional transport partnerships (RTPs) more flexibility to improve services, either by working with bus companies or by stepping in and running services themselves.

It also provides for a ban on double parking and parking on pavements, powers for enforcing low-emission zones in cities and new regulations overseeing roadworks.

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth has said however that the proposals do not go far enough.

The party plans to put down a series of amendments calling for control of Scotland’s bus network to be taken away from big business.

Mr Smyth said:  “The Transport Bill is a chance to deliver real change for our buses and start to reverse the decade of decline they have suffered.

“However, the SNP’s plans are far too timid and will only allow local authorities to set up municipal bus companies to run loss-making routes.

“This will allow Scotland’s transport tycoons to continue hoovering up profits and leave communities short-changed.

“Labour will put forward proposals to re-write the bill so Scotland has a transport system which is run for the many, not the few.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Transport (Scotland) Bill will support local authorities to meet local needs, whether they wish to pursue partnership working, local franchising, or running their own buses where appropriate. Local authorities can already run their own services in some limited circumstances, as some do. The Bill extends these powers.

“The Bill will allow local authorities to deliver bus services which are not being offered by commercial companies. They can do this either directly themselves or through a council owned company to address gaps in the services provided in their local network. There is no prospect of amendments being put down next week as this cannot happen until Stage 2, the timetable for which is being agreed by Parliament.

“We are aware there are a range of views on these matters and the legislative process will allow these to be aired as the Bill undergoes Parliamentary scrutiny. The Cabinet Secretary for Transport has also already stated that he is open to looking at what additional measures can be taken to enhance the bus aspects of the Bill.”

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “Yet again Labour has failed to do its homework.

“As we can see in Edinburgh, local authorities already have the power to run bus franchises in some circumstances – and we’re extending that power further.

“The Transport Bill empowers local councils to improve services in their area and provide new bus routes across Scotland.

“The SNP Government will spend £250 million this year to support the bus industry, helping keep fares at affordable levels and securing free travel for older and disabled passengers.”

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