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Highland Greens MSP Ariane Burgess makes Scottish parliament call for support for new locally-owned public bus companies to combat service cuts in Inverness and the Highlands

By Scott Maclennan

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Highlands and Islands Green MSP Ariane Burgess.
Highlands and Islands Green MSP Ariane Burgess.

Highland Greens MSP Ariane Burgess has called for support so local authorities can “establish locally-owned bus companies” amid a “most acute” situation facing the region as more services are cancelled.

Stagecoach was forced to remove some services due to staff being forced to self-isolate – a situation that was compounded by the loss of a number of drivers to HGV contracts, which apparently pay more.

During a debate on a members bill in the Scottish Parliament MSPs across the political spectrum called for greater protections for rural bus services and urgent action to prevent damaging cuts and reductions.

The transport minister, Graeme Dey, accepted that rural bus services appear to be more vulnerable to service cuts and revealed that the relevant local transport authorities are currently exploring what alternatives can be found.

Ms Burgess highlighted the problems that Covid-19 and Brexit have had on services across the Highlands and Islands as well as the increasing isolation that the loss of some routes can cause in rural areas.

Ms Burgess said afterwards: “In Inverness, Stagecoach withdrew a host of services for the second time in two months due to staff needing to self-isolate. They had already lost many drivers to the HGV sector, which is offering better pay in order to fill its own Brexit-induced driver shortage.

“Brexit and Covid are not the only forces behind service cuts, privatisation and decades of deregulation has resulted in services that are expensive, unreliable, and dysfunctional. The problem is most acute here, where cancellations are more likely to lead to isolation.

“The current system is not working for passengers, for taxpayers or for the climate. Commercial bus networks are subsidised to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds per year. Instead, we must support local authorities to establish locally-owned bus companies.”

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