‘The reduced subsidy is a body blow’

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ON April 1, 2010, there was a little change made to a government subsidy, of which few people will have heard.

The Bus Service Operators’ Grant, public money handed out to commercial bus companies by Transport Scotland, was altered so that it removed the link between the sum awarded and the amount the firms were forking out on fuel duties.

It’s understandable why the BSOG exists – to ensure vital public transport services can be sustained – and it’s said in some cases to account for £1 in every £10 earned by bus operators, although neither the Scottish Government or the bus operators will reveal just how much is paid.

But the change two years ago meant that grants were then based on the kilometres the buses travelled as well as the total volume of fuel used. It was, obviously, a ruse by the Scottish Government to help public transport in more rural areas, particularly the Highlands and Islands.

Now, the second condition for BSOG, that of fuel used, is to be removed. Companies such as Lothian Buses, which mainly run services in cities, will see their grant slashed by up to 40 per cent. Lothian Buses, with its short-distance routes, stop-starting around the city’s tramworks-locked roads, is expected to face one of the biggest losses.

So while services in the north of Scotland will see their grant sustained or perhaps rise, the people of Edinburgh are likely to see fares rise, possibly by twice the rate of inflation. A single trip could soon cost £1.40.

Given it’s the second such rise in two years – the last because the government cut £2.5m from a subsidy to help cover the cost of free travel for pensioners – passengers may find it hard to take. But Lothian Buses has not had its troubles to seek. It’s faced mass disruption because of the tramworks, ditto falling passenger numbers, and massive costs with rising fuel duties. It’s done well to get its books back in the black and invest in new, greener, buses.

To now be dealt a body blow by a government said to be keen on making Scotland a greener, cleaner place to live, by getting emissionlevels down, is ironic to say the least.

Tips not included

They say that there is no such thing as a free lunch – but restaurateur Pierre Levicky has proved the old saying wrong.

These are tough times for the restaurant trade in general as we all look to count our pennies and often think twice about eating out.

In the circumstances, we only hope that those who did enjoy Mr Levicky’s hospitality yesterday spread the word about his restaurant. And that they left a generous tip.