Bus Provision in Banffshire and Buchan Coast (Engagement with Operators)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 March 2024.

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Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

8. To ask the Scottish Government when it last engaged with commercial bus operators such as Stagecoach regarding bus provision in areas like the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency. (S6O-03283)

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government regularly meets commercial bus operators to discuss a wide range of issues that impact the sector. The most recent meeting with officials took place on 12 March. Although I have not yet had the opportunity to meet Stagecoach directly since my ministerial appointment, I look forward to doing so in due course.

The majority of bus services in Scotland operate in a deregulated market. However, I am committed, in conjunction with bus operators and local authorities, to continuing to look at ways of improving services to ensure that everyone has accessible public transport, which provides vital connections.

Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

I recently conducted a survey in my constituency, which received an overwhelming 1,144 responses. Almost 90 per cent of respondents feel that bus services in the area have deteriorated in the past year, and more than four in five respondents rely on those services to commute to work or school and attend vital national health service appointments. What is the minister doing to encourage companies such as Stagecoach to improve their services for constituents?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I very much recognise the importance of local bus services to communities and that ensuring the long-term sustainability of vital local routes is a collaborative endeavour. To that end, I encourage Karen Adam to continue to work with bus operators in the area to promote the use of services and to help maintain and grow the patronage that is needed to underpin the stability and longevity of those transport links.

Karen Adam might be aware that, through the bus task force, we have worked with operators and relevant parties to address the issues that the bus industry as a whole has been facing. A report will be published shortly that will include a best practice guide for community engagement.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Liam Kerr has a brief supplementary question.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

A major issue in north-east bus provision is abuse of and violence against drivers and passengers. Following the tragic death of Keith Rollinson in Elgin, Unite published a 15-point blueprint to improve safety, and it has called for legislation to create a specific offence of committing a crime against transport workers. Has the minister read that blueprint? If so, which of the 15 points particularly interests him? What is his view on the proposed legislation?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

What I can tell Liam Kerr is that the cabinet secretary has written to Unite to set up a meeting, and that process is under way.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio question time. Before we move to the next item of business, there will be a brief pause to allow those on the front benches to change positions.