New bus numbers show Scottish Government is failing pa...

New bus numbers show Scottish Government is failing passengers

22 February 2017

Unite the union says new figures show that Scotland’s free-for-all privatised bus services are in chaos – with passengers getting a worse service despite increased public subsidy.

New Scottish Transport Statistics published today (Wed 22 Feb) have found that the number of bus journeys in Scotland has fallen by a massive five million journeys a year.

But at the same time, public subsidy to the bus companies has massively increased – with an extra £8 million a year now being handed over from the public purse. 

Unite’s Haud the Bus campaign is demanding that the Scottish Government bring buses back under public control, to create a better service for passengers and to bring costs under control. 

Earlier this year, the union lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament calling for bus regulation, and an inquiry into the benefits of bringing buses into common ownership.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “These numbers show that the Scottish Government is failing bus passengers. Without bus regulation, we will continue to have a free-for-all where the only thing that matters is profit – with people and passengers just being the mugs who pick up the tab.

“Scotland’s bus services are in a mess. The public are paying more and more both in fares and in the amount of subsidy they are giving to the bus companies. But the service they are getting continues to become worse and worse.

“Even with this fall in journey numbers, buses are still by far the most popular form of public transport. They are most-used by workers, poorer people, older people and women. Having affordable, joined-up bus services is the bedrock of a decent society and is about equality.”

Independent research done for Unite has found that Scotland could save around £51 million a year, if the country regulated buses following the model used in London. If all buses were brought into public ownership along the successful Lothian Buses model, the savings could be even bigger – some £76 million a year.

Pat Rafferty said: “Those savings could transform bus services in Scotland. We could afford to keep our bus pass at age 60. We could invest in staff, new low-carbon vehicles and 21st century ticketing. Plus we’d have all the benefits of being able to create a proper network that actually meets the needs of people.

“If the Scottish Government fails to take the opportunity to regulate our buses and to seriously look at new models of common ownership, it will be a shameful example of putting big companies before working people.”


Notes to editors

For more information or to arrange an interview contact Unite Scotland press officer David Eyre on 07960 451631 /

Figures on Bus and Coach travel have been taken from Scottish Transport Statistics 2015/16, available here: Figures for comparison from Scottish Transport Statistics 2014/15 are available here:

In 2014/15 there were from 414 million journeys made by bus in Scotland. In 2015/16 the figure fell to 409 million journeys. 

In 2014/15 the revenues of bus companies were £654 million. In 2015/16 they went up to £671 million.

Some 45% of bus revenues come in the form of grants from the Scottish Government and local councils, meaning that public subsidy for bus companies in Scotland went up £7.65 million between 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Research by the independent researchers Transport for Quality of Life found that Scotland would save £51 million a year under a franchise model similar to that used by Transport for London. A move to municipal ownership would save some £76 million a year.  

Unite’s Haud the Bus campaign lodged a petition for bus regulation with the Scottish Parliament in December and gave evidence to the Public Petitions Committee in January. More details are available here: