A packed public meeting was held last week in Pathhead to discuss council proposals to remove a subsidy for a “vital” local transport link.
Around 200 residents attended the ‘Save Our Bus’ meeting to raise serious concerns about the future of the only bus which runs along the A68 corridor - the hourly 51/52 Perryman Bus.
Midlothian Council is considering removing the annual £18,000 subsidy for the bus to stop in Pathhead, Edgehead, Ford and Dalkeith, as part of proposals to save money.
Tynewater Community Council secretary Jennifer Grahame said: “This bus is absolutely vital. It’s the only transport link we have. It’s an unprecedented cut. I think Edgehead is the only village in the UK that would have its only transport link withdrawn.
“The main concern raised at the meeting was the impact on the disabled and people with less mobility.”
Midlothian North MSP Colin Beattie (SNP) joined local Councillor Kenneth Baird (SNP) in condemning the plans.
Mr Beattie Stated: “These services are a lifeline to local communities and to think of cutting public transport is simply stupid. The potential economic and social impact makes this nonsensical. Our rural communities have particular needs and are too often overlooked or disregarded. This proposal needs to be put back in its box.”
Councillor Baird added: “I was not elected to take part in putting our rural communities to such disadvantage. Like our MSP I believe we must fight against such destructive and poorly considered cuts. We must support our communities.”
Councillor John Hackett, cabinet member for commercial operations, recognises the “serious concerns” the proposals have raised, adding: “As part of the 2018/19 budget process where Midlothian Council needs to reduce spending by up to £16 million, over 80 proposals have been put forward for comment and consideration within the current consultation exercise which closes on the 14 December.
“Included within the proposals are the removal of the support for bus services supported directly by the Council, including the 51/52 bus service.
“It is clear from the feedback received to date there are serious concerns from the Midlothian community about the impact each of the proposals will have on local residents and our communities.
“However, many of the difficult decisions members will require to take to ensure a balanced budget is achieved for 2018/19 have raised equally strong concerns.
“At the Council meeting of 13 February 2018, Councillors will be required to pass a balanced budget where consideration will be given to each of the proposals currently out for consultation. This will include decisions relating to the travel proposal as identified above.
“Midlothian is not immune to this and in fact is facing the challenge of meeting the demands of a growing community whilst funding is being cut by the Scottish Government.
“We have also been making the case for additional funding to the Scottish Government and have made it clear that unless the drastic cuts in council funding come to an end, the impact on our communities will be devastating.”