The Chicago Tribune recently published a truly humbling account of Edinburgh and its people penned by a tourist. What caught my eye is the description of Lothian Buses:
Edinburgh has a cheap (about a buck-fifty a ride in town) and efficient bus system with frequent service to everywhere a visitor might want to visit. The drivers and fellow passengers alike are extremely friendly and more than willing to explain the system and point you to the correct stop, as well as discuss their recent doctor’s appointments, the town council’s foolishness and, of course, the weather.
We should never forget that Edinburgh has one of the UK’s best bus services. What makes it so special is that it is owned by the Council and operates to benefit Edinburgh, not maximise profits.
Those that doubt the benefits of Lothian Buses only have to look west to see how lucky we are. In Glasgow there is no municipal bus company, services are operated by First Bus and Stagecoach. Whereas in Edinburgh we can travel the length of our Capital for £1.60, a relatively short journey in central Glasgow can cost £2 even when the tickets are bought in advance. Making matters worse for Glaswegians, this week it was announced that fares will increase by 15% for adults and an eyewatering 40% for children. What’s more, unaccompanied children will have to pay the adult fare. Adding insult to injury, the view out of the window is nowhere near as good as we get in Edinburgh.
Glasgow City Council is powerless to intervene as for 11 years the SNP have refused to regulate bus companies or give other Councils the power to establish the equivalent of Lothian Buses. They have let private bus companies run riot.
That has now changed. At last, after pressure from Labour and Unite, the SNP have said they “aim” to bring forward legislation in the coming years. Don’t hold your breath though, similar commitments were made in the past.
Of course cynics will say the SNP have not acted to date because the party has received millions from Sir Brian Souter. As well as been known for spending a million pounds opposing gender equality legislation in Scotland and being caught in a £11m tax avoidance dodge, this super rich SNP backer is Chairman of the Stagecoach Group. Anyone who doubts the influence Souter has over the SNP should ask why they had him knighted and why Nicola Sturgeon refused to ask to that reward be removed when he was caught avoiding paying tax.
So let’s be grateful for Lothian Buses, but not expect anything similar to be started up elsewhere in Scotland anytime soon.