SNP Government draft transport bill undermines Stirling’s ambition for a community owned public transport company

In Stirling Labour’s 2017 manifesto for Stirling Council, we announced plans to create new community ownership models in energy, broadband and public transport.  When the Labour/SNP partnership was formed, six key priorities for local government were agreed.  One of them says:

“We will create and implement environment and infrastructure improvements. We will deliver new ownership and delivery methods around energy generation, public transport and internet access, ensuring profits and services work to community, not commercial priorities.”

The SNP Government’s recent draft transport bill will leave the profits of bus operators in the hands of private companies and let them cherry pick the best routes, while abandoning the loss-making lifeline services and forcing Local Authorities to pick up the pieces.

Stirling Labour’s Community Ownership Spokesperson, Cllr Chris Kane, says,

IMGP9304 (1)“This SNP bill will hamper our ambition to create a community owned public transport company which works to community, not commercial priorities.  This bill will leave profit in the hands of bus companies while councils pick up the gaps and losses.  Once again it seems that Brian Souter’s Stagecoach has more influence over government policy than people and communities.  I support Scottish Labour’s plans to radically overhaul the bill to allow councils to create a public transport plan that works for the many, not the few.”

In its current form, the bill would only allow local authorities to run bus services in very restricted circumstances where there is no private provider and the legislation would not allow any public sector bids for bus franchises.

In practice, the legislation would only allow public control of the routes that private providers deem unprofitable, leaving local councils to pick up the pieces and all the losses going forward.

Scottish Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to radically overhaul the bill and give the country a transport system that works for the many, not the few.

Speaking after the bill was published last week, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth MSP said:

 “Under the SNP government bus fares have soared but passenger numbers have plummeted as bus services have been dismantled route by route. This bill was a chance to deliver real change on our buses and start to reverse the SNP’s decade of decline but instead it is a huge missed opportunity. We know the SNP prefer private to public ownership when it comes to our railways, now we know it is the same on our bus routes. Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to change the bill. We will safeguard the free bus pass for older people, improve concessionary travel for young people and allow local authorities to deliver a people’s bus service where passengers, not profits are the priority.”

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitment:

  • We will commit to the creation of a municipal public transport company to provide public transport. Community priorities, not commercial priorities, should determine where and when public transport operates.

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