A SCOTLAND-WIDE smartcard for the entire transport network would help give travellers a fairer deal and tackle the decline in bus journeys, according to campaigners.

The Bus Fair initiative also wants more priority bus lanes to be created to help speed up journeys and is urging the UK Government to provide tax relief on public transport season tickets.

The campaign, by the sustainable transport body Transform Scotland, says it is "unfair" that commuters who travel to work by bus do not benefit from schemes such as tax incentives for workplace parking and the Cycle to Work scheme, which can reduce the cost of buying a bike.

Buses support some 260,000 jobs across Scotland, according to research published by Transform Scotland, with those who commute to work this way contributing £2.3 billion a year to the economy.

However figures released by Transport Scotland show that there has been a decline in journey numbers.

Current figures state that 414 million journeys were made during 2014/15, which is a 10 per cent drop over the last five years.

Transform Scotland chairman Phil Matthews said: "We need the transport debate to pay much more attention to buses.

"There is an ongoing fascination with new air routes, motorways, and high-speed trains, but very little focus on the mode of transport used by most users of public transport on a daily basis.

"It’s now imperative that government turns more of its attention to how it can reverse this worrying fall in bus use.

"While there has been welcome growth in rail travel over the past decade, rail remains a small part of overall Scottish public transport, with buses still moving 80 per cent of all travellers."

Mr Matthews added: "Buses are important for the Scottish economy, but investment in buses is also important for societal reasons.

"Lower income groups, young people, women, and the elderly are disproportionately dependent on buses in order to get around. If political parties are serious about a fairer and more inclusive "Scotland they need to focus on buses and thereby better meet the needs of these groups."

Already, ScotRail has moved towards a smartcard ticketing system, stating that it intends to make one for use on all the rail company's services by the end of this summer.

But the Bus Fair campaign said it was pushing for the introduction of a Scotland-wide smartcard to be usable on all modes of public transport – bus, tram, subway, train and ferry.

It said the success of other smartcard schemes, such as London’s Oyster card, highlights the overwhelming benefits of a universal travel card.

It proposed a Scotland-wide smartcard would enable flexible, integrated travel across the country and would remove the current barriers to public transport, such as separate cash payment for each journey.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said the use of "Smart technology" was part of the Scottish Government's "long-term vision that all journeys on Scotland’s bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks can be made using some form of smart ticketing or payment".

She said that recent annoucements concerning ScotRail's initiative and McGills Bus 'GoSmart' trial were evidence of the progress made towards this.

She added: "Further expansion of smart ticketing, along with any potential changes to the concessionary travel scheme or new incentives to encourage greater bus use, will be a matter for the next Scottish Parliament to take forward."