Bus Franchising Could Create Annual £100 Million Black Hole for Scottish Tax Payer

13/03/2024

McGill’s Group, the UK’s largest independent bus company, has reacted robustly to plans by Strathclyde Passenger Transport for bus franchising, stating that it would amount to ‘theft of a private business’ that would ill serve both passengers and taxpayers.

The chief executive of SPT, Valerie Davidson, was interviewed on BBC Good Morning Scotland today and refused to comment on the £100million of taxpayers’ cash it would cost each and every year to put franchising in place.

McGill’s, which is owned by leading Scottish businessmen Sandy and James Easdale, said the plans effectively amount to business confiscation and would go against ‘every sense of natural justice’.

McGill’s Group CEO, Ralph Roberts, said:

“With a £1billion black hole in the Scottish economy, I cannot imagine how they are going to find £100million per year to subsidise franchised bus services in Strathclyde.

“Franchising is effectively confiscation of a business that has been built in good faith over many years with investors funds and it raises a host of legal implications, including issues under Article 1 of ECHR. 

“It goes against every sense of natural justice and we would take this to every court in the land and beyond.

“Franchising can be introduced in a different way and our opposition to it will be absolute until the threat of theft of a private business is lifted.

“Bus use is declining because local authorities haven’t done their job to help bus users. I see nothing from franchising that will change this and unless councillors are willing to make the kind of tough decisions made in other places, particularly in prioritising buses over private cars, then this will be a very expensive waste of money for the taxpayer.

“Our advice is simple and based on proven experience from around the world – remove buses from congestion and take business confiscation off the table. These two simple steps will build trust and show that this is about bus users rather than a power trip for politicians and quangos, most of whom never set foot on a bus.

“SPT’s own transport plan states that bus users should get priority over car users. Councillors are terrified to do this as they fear they would lose their job. Instead, they want taxpayers to fund an expensive and inefficient new system where buses remain stuck in traffic and car users get eleven times more road space than a bus user. They will do what is safe for themselves rather than what is right.

“In 2017, I made a presentation to SPT bosses to highlight the issues we were facing in delivering a reliable service to passengers. They have sat on their hands and done nothing since. I followed up in a letter to the SPT chair in 2021, again detailing the problems we have faced. Nothing has been done.

“Politicians want to play fast and loose with taxpayers’ cash, as we have seen over ferries, Prestwick Airport and the deposit return scheme. They have no idea how to run a bus company and should address the issues that are in their control.”

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