Union bus sell-off fears if council plans get the gree...

Union bus sell-off fears if council plans get the green light

27 August 2016

Workers at Lothian Buses fear the company could be plundered – or even sold off - if plans go ahead to place it under the direct control of Transport for Edinburgh. 

On Tuesday 30 August, councillors on Edinburgh’s Transport and Environment Committee will decide whether to give Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) the right to be directly involved in the day-to-day running of Lothian Buses.

Unite regional officer Tony Trench said: “Lothian Buses is a jewel in the crown. It is one of the last remaining municipal bus companies in the UK. It is a profitable business that provides a good service for passengers in Edinburgh and beyond. We can’t afford to have it threatened.

“Our members are afraid that Lothian Buses would be bled dry here under TfE - either by privatisation, or because it’s being used as a golden goose to fill a hole in other budgets. 

“This proposal opens a door, and on the other side of it could be the prospect of sell-off to a private bus company. And passengers know what that means – a poorer service, higher fares and no guarantee that routes will survive if they don’t turn enough profit.

“When First Group recently pulled out of East Lothian with hardly any warning, tens of thousands of people faced the prospect of being left with no bus service at all. It was only because Lothian Buses is such a stable, profitable business, that it was able to step in.

“Councillors in Edinburgh should be proud of Lothian Buses, and shouldn’t be handing it over to an arms-length company. We demand that they reject this proposal, and we ask the other Lothian councils who have a minority shareholding to support us.” 

At the moment, TfE simply holds Edinburgh City Council’s shares in the bus company, and helps develop an overall transport strategy for the city. Lothian Buses has its own board, its own management, and reports directly to Edinburgh City Council.

TfE also owns Edinburgh Trams, and the move to place Lothian Buses under its control has increased concerns that even more profits from the bus company will be used to pay for the controversial £145 million ‘Leith Walk’ tram extension. The council has already approved plans to put £20 million of Lothian Bus profits towards the project. 

There are also fears that the move to TfE could leave Lothian Buses open to sell-off to a private bus firm. The report to councillors says: “TfE… has the potential to develop commercial opportunities to transform some Council-run public transport operations and services. This may remove the need of ongoing Council funding over time and it is proposed these opportunities should be explored.” 

Unite members from Lothian Buses will take a deputation to the City Chambers on Tuesday morning to make their views known to councillors.


For further information, or to arrange an interview or photo opportunity, contact Unite Scotland Media & Communications Officer David Eyre on 07960 451631. Email

Notes to editors:

A filming / photo opportunity with Unite members from Lothian Buses will be held outside Edinburgh City Chambers at 9am on Tuesday 30 August.

The council report for Tuesday’s meeting of the Transport & Environment Committee ‘Transport for Edinburgh – Governance’ can be downloaded from here.

The full agenda (337 pages) can be downloaded from here.

In March, Midlothian Council raised concerns about Lothian Buses being used to subsidise Edinburgh’s trams. 

Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with 150,000 members across the economy. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.