The Scottish Government today (10 November 2020) announced plans for a £500m bus infrastructure fund, but campaigners say this money is being used to prevent regulation and stifle competition.

The Bus Partnership Fund, first announced in September 2019’s Programme for Government, will pay for things such as bus lanes on trunk roads and smarter traffic management systems. This will speed up journey times, making bus a more competitive transport option, reducing car use with consequent benefits for air quality and climate emissions.

However, the criteria for councils which wish to apply to this fund, includes setting up a bus partnership (BSIP). Campaigners say these partnerships legally prevent other measures such as the setting up of a public bus company; meaning the Scottish Government’s funding stream will simply maintain the status quo.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson commented,

“This £500m is welcome investment for bus lanes on motorways and smarter traffic management. However, it arrives with hefty strings attached. Councils can only apply for this money if they agree to form partnerships with private bus operators and don’t start up their own competing public bus company.

“The Scottish Government is using this much-needed funding stream to prevent regulation and public ownership – powers which were devolved to councils in last year’s Transport Act. All councils need to access their share of this £500m so this fine print effectively pushes councils away from starting up a publicly owned bus company.”

“Public ownership and more democratic control of our public transport is both popular and necessary. Publicly owned buses will allow profits to be reinvested in the network, and for comprehensive services that take people where they want to go. The Scottish Government preventing it in this way will not work for taxpayers, passengers or the climate.”


Notes to Editors

In September 2019’s Programme for Government, the Scottish Government announced a fund of £500m for bus infrastructure measures:

“We will bring forward a step change in investment with over £500 million for improved bus infrastructure to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services and raise bus usage. This work will make bus travel a more attractive and reliable option and reduce emissions.”

https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/publication/2019/09/protecting-scotlands-future-governments-programme-scotland-2019-20/documents/governments-programme-scotland-2019-20/governments-programme-scotland-2019-20/govscot%3Adocument/governments-programme-scotland-2019-20.pdf P.96

Transport Scotland today announced conditions for that funding.

The criteria for funding eligibility says the councils must have formed a Bus Service Improvement Partnership (BSIP) with private operators. https://www.transport.gov.scot/public-transport/buses/bus-partnership-fund/criteria/

BSIPs are contracts between councils and operators which hand operators power over council decision-making. A council with a BSIP in place would not be able to introduce a publicly owned bus company unless private operators agreed to it.
“BSIPs involve…. operators and local authorities required to work together to develop the plans and schemes to improve services in the area and taking responsibility for their delivery. Operators are given a say in whether proposed plans and schemes proceed.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups