Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh has hit out at the 'staggering decline' in local bus services in Scotland as figures show almost two-fifths of routes have been axed since the SNP came to power.

Labour highlighted Traffic Commissioner statistics showing a 38 per cent decline in local bus routes in Scotland between 2007 and 2023, including 160 in the past year alone.

Speaking on the issue, Ms Haigh said: "The staggering decline in local bus services under the SNP is nothing short of vandalism against communities in Scotland."

The Labour MP spoke out ahead of a campaign visit to Rutherglen and Hamilton West, where Labour is pushing to win the seat after a recall petition against Margaret Ferrier saw her ousted from the Commons after breaching Covid rules.

Glasgow Times: Image: PA

With campaigning for the by-election coming amid controversy over a reduction in nighttime bus services by First Bus Glasgow, Labour seized on the opportunity to attack the SNP, accusing ministers of failing to enact franchising legislation which would allow local councils to take control over services.

Ms Haigh said: "The Scottish Government has the power to change this, but the SNP have dragged their feet and refused to act, even as communities have been robbed of essential services.

"Scottish Labour would put passengers first by supporting communities to take back control over their bus services."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar claimed that "bus routes in Scotland are collapsing while the SNP is standing idly by."

He said: "For almost four years now the SNP has delayed giving councils the power they need to take control of local services and put an end to this decline.

"This failure will do lasting damage to our communities, our economy, and our planet.

"It’s time to help councils bring buses back into public hands so we can run services for people instead of profits and deliver the reliable, affordable services we need."

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A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: "We are aware of the importance of bus services and are committed, in conjunction with operators and local authorities, to improving services to ensure everyone has accessible public transport regardless of geographic location.

"There is a broad package of long-term investment in bus, including through the Network Support Grant, Community Bus Fund, and for bus priority infrastructure, together with the enhanced suite of options for local transport authorities to improve bus services according to their local needs, including formal partnerships, franchising and running their own bus services.

"The bus provisions in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 empower local authorities with the flexible tools they need to respond to their own transport challenges.

"The Scottish Government has already delivered powers to allow authorities to run their own buses, which sit alongside their existing ability to subsidise services.

"Secondary legislation to enable bus franchising and partnership options will be introduced before the end of this year, to enable local transport authorities to begin developing their preferred options for improving their local bus services."