I thank the cabinet secretary for his answer. McGill’s Bus Service Ltd, which is the main operator that runs as a monopoly in many parts of Renfrewshire, has recently announced changes to its services, including axing the 907 service that links Glasgow and Renfrewshire to Dunoon. The company originally proposed fare increases of up to 62 per cent for peak-time journeys between Erskine and Glasgow, but has since backtracked. It now proposes fare increases of up to 30 per cent, which local MSP Derek Mackay has championed as a win for passengers. Does the cabinet secretary agree that extortionate fare increases are a win only for bus operators, and that they show the need to regulate the bus industry across Scotland?
I know from my discussions with Derek Mackay that he was concerned about the increases that were proposed by McGill’s for some of its routes, and that he has been making strenuous representations to the company to address the matter. I welcome the reduction in McGill’s proposed increase.
Mary Fee will be aware that we have set out a range of options in the Transport (Scotland) Bill to strengthen the role of local authorities in provision of bus services in their areas, including through bus service improvement partnerships, in order to ensure greater recognition of local need in the services that are provided by bus operators. I believe that the measures will strengthen our ability to ensure that bus services are delivered in communities in a way that reflects the communities’ needs; I hope that the Labour Party will support the bill when it comes before Parliament.
I, too, have concerns about price increases in West Scotland. The cabinet secretary spoke about the Transport (Scotland) Bill’s potential to address issues by enabling local authorities to set up franchises, but I have not met a single local authority that is interested in doing so—or, indeed, one that has any money to do so. How many local authorities have expressed to him interest in setting up local bus franchises?
Jamie Greene seems to be trying to characterise our bill as having franchising as its only element. As a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which is considering the bill, he will be well aware that it provides a range of measures to allow local authorities to take options that are not currently available. The committee has suggested that we add more options to the bill, and we are actively considering that for stage 2. It is important that the member not characterise the bill as offering only one option; it offers a suite of options that will allow local authorities to consider what will best meet the needs of their communities.