Bus Services (Scottish Borders)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 26th June 2003.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 2:30 pm, 26th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what concerns it has about withdrawal of bus services in the Scottish Borders. (S2O-273)

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

Although the provision of local bus services is a matter for individual bus operators and the local council or local transport authority, the Scottish Executive is clearly concerned at the reduction of any public transport provision.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I note what the minister says, but in a recent parliamentary answer he stated:

"The Executive provides substantial financial support for the operation of subsidised local bus services through the local government Grant Aided Expenditure mechanism ... There are currently no plans to increase this support."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 16 June 2003; p 177.]

Who is to blame for the crisis of essential Borders bus services being cut right, left and centre—Scottish Borders Council or the Liberal Democrat Minister for Transport?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

The Scottish Executive is increasing funding to local authorities and the funds available are rising right across Scotland. In addition, the Executive has provided £19.7 million in new investment since 1998 through the rural public passenger transport fund. Wide powers are available to local authorities and I know that Scottish Borders Council is considering ways of mitigating the worrying reductions in services. I hope that it will seize its powers and take action.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Is the minister aware that local Peeblesshire Liberal Democrat councillors, together with independents and me, are working hard to seek the retention of the town service in Peebles? That approach is more constructive than that of the member who asked the question—an approach that was described by a former SNP councillor in a local newspaper last week as "bitching and whining".

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I was unaware of that comment and am unwilling to comment on it. However, I have read in the local press some of Christine Grahame's generous comments about my Liberal Democrat colleagues and me.

As I said, local councils have powers available to them. As I understand it, a policy decision of Scottish Borders Council was not to support town services. That was not a Scottish Executive decision and it is one that Scottish Borders Council can change.