AN AYRSHIRE MSP is urging the Scottish Government to splash the cash and help local authorities run their own bus services.

This follows news that councils now have powers to take over the services across the country.

However, Transport Scotland insist money has already been made available. 

West Scotland Labour MSP Katy Clark argued that more resources would enable North Ayrshire Council to permanently protect threatened lifeline routes, such as the X34 and X36 services which link Irvine, the Three Towns and the Garnock Valley with Glasgow.

Ms Clark, who formerly served as the MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, said: “The implementation of these provisions is incredibly welcome after years of campaigning by passenger groups and trade unions.

“However, few local authorities will feel capable of setting up their own networks unless they receive sufficient funding and resources from the Scottish Government.

“In fact, as it stands, councils are effectively incentivised to pursue partnerships with private operators via the Bus Partnership Fund.

“Everyone can see the current model is broken, with operators pocketing millions in subsidies whilst hiking prices and cutting services.

“Here in North Ayrshire, declining usage due to the pandemic means lifeline routes like the services serving Garnock Valley to Glasgow are under threat as they are not ‘viable’.

“Ministers must enable local authorities and transport partnerships to explore setting up their own networks so residents are finally served with routes based on need rather than profit.”

However a Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We have allocated £1 million in the Scottish Budget to develop the Community Bus Fund in 2022-23 to support local transport authorities to improve local bus services and to explore the full range of options set out in the 2019 Act, including local authority-run bus services.

“The recent Resource Spending Review allocated £46 million to the Fund for the remainder of this parliament, with a further £30 million allocated in the Capital Spending Review. 

“This complements a broader package of long-term investment, including through support for bus services, concessionary free travel schemes and over £500 million of long-term investment for bus priority measures.

“The Scottish Government has also supported bus operators with up to £210 million  in emergency Covid funding since June 2020.

“This is in addition to maintaining the Bus Service Operators’ Grant and concessionary reimbursement at pre-Covid levels where we would normally spend over £260 million a year.

“On 1 April, we introduced the Network Support Grant, with up to £93.5 million allocated for 2022-23.

"An additional £25.7 million is being provided in temporary recovery to extend the Network Support Grant Plus until October of this year while services and demand adjust following the pandemic.

“We are working hard and investing hundreds of millions to maintain local bus services. 

"While more people are now using the bus than in recent weeks and months, passenger numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels. 

“We would encourage everyone who values their local bus service to use it where they can and can afford to.

"That is the best way to enable local authorities to consider how best to provide these services in the future.”