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Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th October 2019.

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Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

I thank the cabinet secretary. He said that he listened to the debate at stage 2, and I know that he did so intently. Importantly, he also listened to COSLA, which is the representative body of local authorities and which has said that it wants the powers in the amendments. Colleagues have talked about the current provision in the bill referring to unmet need. That relates to a situation where there is no money in providing a service. We know from the demographics of people who use buses that they are the people who have many needs to be met, not least to get from A to B.

I am delighted that the Scottish Government is on board and I fully support the amendments in the group, although they are hardly revolutionary. The Scottish Greens ran a better buses campaign and heard from people the length and breadth of the country about the challenges that exist, which have fuelled the patronage decline. We need to reverse that. No one is suggesting that that will happen overnight, but it is important that local authorities take the opportunities, not least because the situation with Lothian Buses has always been anomalous. As I said in relation to an earlier amendment, we saw the turnaround that took place in East Lothian when Lothian Buses moved in, got young people on board and got them into the habit of using public transport.

We would like an extension of free public transport. It is important that there is a co-ordinated approach, as we discussed earlier in talking about transport strategy. It is a real boon that our local authorities will now be in a position to provide services, so we will support the amendments. I thank the cabinet secretary.