RISING car use, congestion, changing shopping habits and reduced government investment have all contributed to a six per cent decline in bus use in Scotland over the last four years, a new report has claimed.

The number of bus journey fell from 436 million to 409 million from the period of 2011/12 to 2015/16, a decrease in 27 million, with provisional estimates of a further fall to 393 million in 2016/17, a decline of nearly 10 per cent.

According to independent analysis from auditors KPMG, the trend -- which is similar to that of England -- reflects a range of significant wider changes across Britain in the economy, to the way people live and work, as well as the impact of government policy and investment decisions, and competition from other transport modes.

However it said that there was significant variation in trends between areas, with the decline more pronounced in non-concessionary groups and in the South West and Strathclyde region and more stable in areas such as the Highlands.

KPMG said an increase in car ownership cut bus journeys by 12 million over four years, while different shopping habits, including an increase in online services and home delivery options, contributed to a decrease of 7.3 million trips.

Reduced bus service routes and increased bus journey times arising from congestion accounted for a fall in 5.9 million trips and increases in bus fares putting people off four million trips.

Changes to economic and workplace structures, such as flexible working, a mix of full and part-time work and changes to the number of people in self-employment and zero-hour contracts. This, alongside competition from rail, trams, taxi companies -- such as Uber -- and cycling, explained a reduction of 8.7 million trips.

The report, which was commissioned by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT Scotland), also highlighted the impact of government policy and investment decisions, showing expenditure on bus services fell by 11 per cent in real terms over the four year period, with support for rail per passenger trip is roughly ten times that for each bus passenger.

The report said: "The reduction in revenue and capital expenditure on local bus services and the commercial reaction to these changes are part of the reason for the increase in fares and reduction in bus vehicle miles in Scotland."

Bus operators in Scotland said practical change was needed to help buses flourish and deliver better services for the country’s bus passengers.

CPT Scotland director, George Mair said: "The value of a comprehensive bus network is clear, and the dangers of not taking the practical action needed are stark."

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said:“We are aware of a decline in bus patronage, but know this decline is not universal across Scotland, and we acknowledge that any proposed solutions will be dependent on local areas and local characteristics.

"One of the ways we aim to make these local improvements is through the forthcoming Transport Bill, with the introduction of a new partnership model.

"We encourage both active and public transport modes in our efforts to get more people out of their cars and onto more sustainable forms of transport, bringing with that health and environmental benefits.”