Bus services should be able to be run by local councils, the Scottish Greens have said.
As the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee starts debating stage two amendments to the government’s Transport Bill, the Greens have argued that local authorities should be allowed to run bus services.
The party says that SNP proposals would only let councils run services that are not deemed financially viable by private operators, and called for changes to go further.
Lothian buses is the only publicly-owned operator in Scotland and Scottish Greens transport spokesman John Finnie said: “Introducing publicly-run services will allow the public to hold local politicians to account for the state of local services in a way they cannot currently do.
“Allowing publicly-run bus services won’t magically make everything better overnight, of course.
“However, given the way many private operators cherry pick routes, arbitrarily raise fares and cut services with little notice it is only right that public services are at the very least an option for communities.”
Mr Finnie added: “Three quarters of public transport journeys are made by bus, yet the number of journeys is falling year on year as services are reduced and routes slashed.
“One third of households have no access to a car and the removal of bus services can leave people stranded, a situation that has huge impacts in all aspects of life from commuting to work, socialising, attending medical appointments or studying.
“Rurality often exacerbates this situation, with loneliness and isolation becoming a growing problem in many of the communities I represent in the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere across the country.
“The concessionary travel scheme is an excellent initiative, but a bus pass is of little use if there isn’t a bus to use it on.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to tackling the historic decline in bus passenger numbers and the Transport (Scotland) Bill is designed to give local authorities the power to meet local needs should they wish to pursue partnership working, local franchising or run their own buses if that is appropriate.
“Since the Bill was introduced, some local authorities have told us that they would like the powers to be extended further and we have lodged an amendment to the Transport Bill that would enable local transport authorities to set up a company to operate local services within a commercial market.
“Local transport authority companies would operate in the same way as any other commercial bus operators and would be subject to all the usual registration and licensing requirements.”