We all know that buses in Glasgow are unreliable, infrequent and too expensive.

The bus deregulation and privatisation that Margaret Thatcher introduced with the 1985 Transport Act, fragmented what was a fully integrated and publicly controlled bus system into an incoherent mess of private monopolists mainly concerned with maximising profits and with next to no regard for the transport needs of people living in and around Glasgow.

The lack of public control was exemplified last summer when First Bus announced the withdrawal of all their night bus services and the democratically elected leaders of our city were left as little more than helpless bystanders pleading for the private firm not to cut a vital public service. After a wave of public outrage, First Bus reversed their decision and saved some routes from being axed. However, it is not good enough that profit dictates our bus network, and at the drop of a hat, public services can be removed by private interests with no democratic accountability.

I have long advocated for our buses to be brought back under public control and, like many, I have been watching on with frustration as Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region have powered ahead under Labour metro mayors and reaped the benefits of bus franchising – such as cheaper fares and a more frequent service across an integrated route network.

Last Friday, the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) Board voted to move forward with the recommendation to establish a bus franchise as part of the Strathclyde Regional Bus Strategy, as well as putting together a business case for a new municipal bus company to cover areas currently underserved by commercial bus firms. This is welcome news – it marks the beginning of the end of 30 years of deregulation.

After watching other cities benefit, the decision to establish a regional bus franchise for Greater Glasgow is a no-brainer. It means that SPT can increase night bus services across the city region, control the farebox, establish new routes based on social needs and unlock the economic potential of Greater Glasgow, which the Centre for Cities estimates is underperforming by over seven billion pounds every year, in large part due to an inefficient public transport system.

Whilst I welcome SPT’s bold decision to move forward with a bus franchise for Greater Glasgow and to bring our buses back under public control, they desperately need the financial backing of the Scottish Government to turn this ambition into a reality.

SPT suggest that it will take seven years to introduce a bus franchise and in the interim they will move forward with a ‘Bus Service Improvement Partnership (BSIP)’. This might begin the process of integrating our bus network but without public control of the farebox, it would still see control kept by private firms and excessive public money flowing out of the system and into the pockets of private bus company shareholders.

I share the concerns of the campaign group Get Glasgow Moving who suggest that any BSIP would delay and side-track efforts to establish the regional bus franchise. SPT could avoid the BSIP route if the Scottish Government funded them properly to accelerate franchising.

It was astonishing that this year’s Scottish Budget slashed SPT’s capital Budget for 2024/25 to zero. A cut of such unprecedented severity leaves the transport body with no financial headroom and hampers its ability to move forward with transformative projects such as bus franchising and the Subway refurbishment.

While the Greens in Glasgow City Chambers posture about bolder bus reform, their colleagues in the Scottish Parliament have nodded through the total removal of SPT’s capital budget – completely undermining such ambitions. The Green-SNP Scottish Government must now step up and recapitalise SPT as they move forward with establishing the regional bus franchise. Greater Glasgow – Scotland’s economic powerhouse – deserves nothing less.