Councillors round on bus dividends plans

Cllr Derek Milligan was one of the councillors angry at the bus dividends plan
Cllr Derek Milligan was one of the councillors angry at the bus dividends plan

Midlothian councillors of all parties have come together to condemn Edinburgh Council’s plans to take a £20 million dividend from Lothian Buses.

After receiving an update from officials at last week’s council meeting, members attacked the plans, raising concerns that this could have a knock-on effect for bus services in the county.

They heard that Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns has replied to Midlothian Council leader Catherine Johnstone’s letter - highlighting her concerns about the extraordinary dividend. In his reply Mr Burns reassured her that Midlothian bus services would not be affected.

Speaking at last week’s meeting Councillor Johnstone (SNP) said: “Andrew Burns’ response is that the City of Edinburgh Council certainly shares the same concerns as the rest of us. And they wouldn’t have requested this extraordinary dividend if the business case didn’t stack up.

“However, should Lothian Region Transport board advise anything else I hope that Andrew Burns and the City of Edinburgh Council abide by what the board recommends.”

Labour councillor Russell Imrie said: “I worry, and I’m sure this council worries about the future of Lothian Buses.

“The pressures they are under to keep what is the envy of Scotland and the UK with regards to a publicly-owned transport unit. It really is something that we all dearly want to keep that way.

“I have to say that I don’t believe the leader of Edinburgh City Council.

“I urge this council not just to note this report but make representation to the board to explain our worry and concerns that if this goes ahead there may very well not be a bus service in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“I’m a little bit frightened that if something goes awry it will be a privatised service in the future.”

Councillor Derek Milligan (Lab) said: “We need to be clear to the board that we see this as a threat to a lot of vital local services.”

SNP transport convener, councillor Derek Rosie said: “Transport for Edinburgh links the buses with the trams and that’s a big concern.

“They are looking to link the trams to Leith then Granton. That’s a worry, that they will be hoping to use the money towards that kind of thing.

“We have got stand up against it.”

Green councillor Ian Baxter said: “When Transport for Edinburgh was set up we were given a seminar as to how the companies would be set-up with the specific purpose of insuring that the trams did not bleed the buses.

“This looks to me like a way of sidestepping that protection for Lothian Buses.”