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.
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.]
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.
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".
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.