Antisocial Behaviour on Buses

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at on 14 December 2023.

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Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

It does not come as any surprise to see so many Lothian MSPs here today. We have the best bus service, I think, which is the envy of many across the country, but there are serious issues.

To address Mr Macpherson’s point quickly, I, too, get the bus regularly and, on Tuesday night, I was subject to what I would call antisocial behaviour targeted at me by an elderly man, who started harassing me by blowing kisses towards me and making all sorts of noises. Frankly, I did not quite know what to do, so I put my headphones on and just kept my head down. There needs to be something that all of us can do when such things happen. I thank my colleague Graham Simpson for bringing the debate to Parliament.

I spoke about what I was subjected to this week but, a number of years ago, I got on a bus on Princes Street where, quite reasonably, there were a number of youths, but they made me feel intimidated. This was on the first floor of a double decker—or the ground floor; I do not know what you call it. They were vaping quite publicly in front of people, and the bus was packed, because it was Christmas time. I asked them to stop and they proceeded to make a big show of inhaling the vapour, puffing it in my face and saying that I was exactly the sort of person who is a Karen.

Drivers and passengers on Lothian Buses should not have to endure abuse from disrespectful and intimidating youths, and we can see how such incidents could easily turn into something more serious. I was concerned about making sure that those youths got off the bus before I did, because I did not want to get off the bus and have them follow me. It was a very scary incident.

We have heard that teenagers from other parts of Scotland are using their free bus passes to come to Edinburgh to cause trouble. Police officers have recently attended a meeting with retailers in the south-west of Edinburgh to discuss a spate of antisocial behaviour in the area, and they have said that individuals are coming to the capital from Motherwell, Glasgow and Inverness, as Mr Simpson said, causing problems, criminality and antisocial behaviour. They are using their bus passes, whereas that did not happen before, because they did not have the means to get here. Unfortunately, the police said that there was nothing more that they could do to stop them.

I have heard similar concerns from two of my council colleagues in Edinburgh, who have raised concerns about youths coming to the Craigleith retail park and to Stockbridge from across the city and further afield to cause trouble. Those incidents are often organised on social media apps such as Snapchat, and the parents do not know where their children have been or where they are going.

We also heard from Graham Simpson about the situation in West Lothian, where youths were using their bus passes to go from Edinburgh and Fife to Livingston town centre. Ultimately, the centre there was closed on Friday afternoons to anyone under the age of 18, if I recall correctly. That is not where we want to be, because there are so many young people who are not abusing their bus passes. That sort of blanket ban is not helpful for anyone.

In Edinburgh, in October, several buses were forced to divert from a very busy neighbourhood. The buses were unable to serve Niddrie Mains Road and Peffermill Road for nearly two hours on a Saturday night. Imagine the impact across the entire community, on people of all ages, including those who are vulnerable and who rely on public transport in Edinburgh, which is critical to how we all get around the city. Lothian Buses has said that it has

“a zero tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour” and that it

“will not hesitate to remove services from particular areas for a period of time if necessary to keep our colleagues and customers safe”,

but customers are then not able to use the services. There needs to be another way to tackle the issue.

I am conscious of time, so I will cut to the end. I am a bit of a believer in a curfew. We have young people who use the buses—in Edinburgh, they are Lothian Buses—to get to school, jobs and colleges, and I think that a curfew is the answer, rather than a cull or a ban, because we need those young people to get to school and take part in education and employment.