Lothian Buses boss exiled to work notice

Ian Craig. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Ian Craig. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Embattled boss Ian Craig has been moved out of his role as the head of Lothian Buses in a major step towards healing a damaging management crisis at the £130 million council-owned service.

Former Scottish Enterprise managing director Jim McFarlane, who has a reputation as a troubleshooter, is being called out of partial retirement and will be parachuted in to the city bus company as an interim general manager, tasked with returning the firm to stability and rebuilding morale.

The reshuffle is a major step towards ending a boardroom row that has rocked the company, claiming its chairman, its employee director, and its four most senior executives over the past six months.

Chief executive officer Mr Craig and the three executives who sparked the dispute by lodging a grievance against him have all been put on notice, and will leave the company within two years.

The outgoing Lothian Buses boss will work from tram HQ at Gogar rather than his office at the Annandale Street bus depot.

Mr Craig will remain chief executive officer of umbrella body Transport for Edinburgh, overseeing the integration of buses and trams, liaison with the council, external affairs, and any tram extension – but will no longer directly manage the bus company.

Lothian Buses chairman Tony Depledge said the saga had been “an extremely challenging period” for the company, and added that part of Mr McFarlane’s role would be to prepare for the “next generation of managers” at the bus outfit.

He said: “The difficult issues that we have experienced have been damaging and well publicised, but we are resilient, Lothian Buses continues to be a fantastic company, and under the new management arrangements all of our efforts will be directed at pulling together and moving forward.”

The new Lothian Buses boss Mr McFarlane will be part-time, working up to three days a week. He will earn less than Mr Craig’s £270,000 salary, taking home £72,000 a year on a pro-rata basis.

The Evening News understands that senior figures on the Lothian Buses board were drawn to Mr McFarlane’s track record of tackling difficult management situations, and his reputation for bringing a pragmatic, common-sense approach to decision-making.

Mr McFarlane said: “I come to Lothian Buses with an open mind and I want to reassure everyone at the company that I won’t be passing judgement on the issues that precede me.

“My role is to build new relationships, repair existing ones and, most importantly, to stabilise a business which is a hugely valuable component of life in our Capital city.”

Mr Craig said: “I welcome the opportunity to continue in my role, driving the Transport for Edinburgh agenda forward, which has been my priority over the last two years.

“I am keen to play my part and fit in with these new management arrangements that, amongst other things, will involve a newly defined role for the remainder of my time here.”

The changes at the top of the company were submitted to the council last week for approval as 91 per cent shareholder, and have been signed off.

Council leader Andrew Burns said the changes would “restore stable and effective management” to Lothian Buses.

He said: “It has undoubtedly been an unsettling few months for staff at the company and I am sure they will welcome this clear and decisive action as the focus rightly returns to its ongoing success.”