CAMPAIGNERS in Glasgow are calling on the Scottish Government to “buy out” – not “bail out” – bus operators.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced firms would be able to access a £260m concessionary travel scheme, regardless of the number of passengers who use services, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Get Glasgow Moving says the investment shows the government could step in to run buses as a “public service” for those who need it most.

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Chairwoman Ellie Harrison said: “This proves what we have been saying all along – that buses are an essential public service and not a cash cow for private operators.

“We give more than £300m of public money to the private bus companies every year, yet they’re still allowed to pick and choose which routes they run and suck profits out of the system.

“Now, as the coronavirus crisis bites, they’re demanding another big bailout from the government to keep themselves afloat.”

She added: “We must seize this opportunity to buy out the bus companies.

“If our buses were publicly run then we would be saving money during a time of reduced services, instead it is costing us money.

“The Scottish Government should use our public money to ensure the mobility of key workers now, and to protect passengers, workers and our economy in the future.”

Campaign member Colette Walker said: “Public transport, especially buses are vitally important for the elderly and the disabled. At this unprecedented time we are living in, their importance has really come to the forefront.

“The buses have enabled me to continue to attend my crucial hospital appointments, whilst maintaining the government distancing rules. Putting our needs as passengers first must continue after the crisis.”

However, a Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Throughout these challenging circumstances, our immediate priority is to work closely with industry partners to ensure we can provide essential public transport services for key workers.

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“This is our focus at this time and we have no plans to nationalise bus services.”

He added: “As we continue to tackle the COVID-19 Emergency we need to ensure that our resources to support the NHS are focused on areas which support our valued NHS staff and will achieve the best outcomes for the people of Scotland.

“We are ensuring key services continue to run by providing public transport operators with financial support at a time when revenues are considerably reduced helping our key workers get to their work and to carry out their essential roles across the country.”