SNP politician apologises for falsely accusing Lothian Buses of anti-Catholic bias for suspending Edinburgh services

An SNP MSP has privately apologised for falsely claiming that anti-Catholic bias lay behind Lothian Buses’ decision to suspend services in Edinburgh on St Patrick's day - after being pressured from the Capital’s transport convener.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 1:38 pm

James Dornan, MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, sparked outrage when he claimed during a Holyrood debate earlier this month that he “could only assume” the bus company believed “Irish Catholics were to blame” for a rise in anti-social behaviour.

He also said: “Why else cancel buses only for the night of an ubiquitous Irish Catholic holiday when pubs were not open and there was a stay at home order in place?

“Can you imagine if this has happened around July 12 or if it had happened around a Muslim festival or a Sikh festival? It is just not acceptable.”

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SNP MSP James Dornan questioned why buses were cancelled on the night of St Patrick's Day, a 'ubiquitous Irish Catholic holiday' (Picture: John Devlin)

But Lothian’s services were suspended on the evening of March 17 after weeks of attacks against drivers and vehicles. Earlier that week, eight buses serving the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary were targeted by vandals in Old Dalkeith Road or Gilmerton Road, which resulted in the removal of services on these routes.

The Herald reports the false claims led to Edinburgh City Council’s SNP transport convener, Lesley Macinnes - also chair of Transport for Edinburgh which heads up Lothian Buses - writing to Mr Dornan and calling on him to “put the record straight.”

The newspaper, which has seen her letter, says it states she was “dismayed”by the comments.

The SNP councillor said, having spoken to the managing director of the bus company, that decision making on service changes was down to anti-social behaviour and nothing to do with St Patrick’s Day or particular groups in any sense.

She added: “Further service changes were also required on other days as the anti-social behaviour continued.

“The ongoing campaign of destruction resulted in further damage, injury and fear. With the return of the schools it seems to have quietened, no doubt helped by the 38 arrests of primarily young people that have been made by Police Scotland.

“Lothian Bus, as a municipally-owned public transport provider and an award-winning bus company, is incredibly popular in Edinburgh, both for passengers going about their business and as a symbol of Edinburgh.

"The assertions you made in Parliament will have upset many people in Edinburgh, whether they are directly linked to the company or not.

“I would ask you therefore to actively consider ways in which you could put the record straight, both in Parliament and on social media.”

In response to a motion by Conservative councillor John McLellan, Ms Macinnes published the private apology she received from the SNP MSP.

Mr Dornan said: “For clarification purposes I want to make it clear that I am aware that Lothian Bus went on to have further changes to their service routes as the campaign against the attacks on buses progressed.

“My speech was meant to highlight how a section of the community can be almost invisible when decisions, including corporate, are made.

“I never at any stage meant to imply that Lothian Buses or their staff were by this action anti-Irish or anti-Catholic. For that I do sincerely apologise.”

Earlier this week, councillors including the SNP group at City Chambers backed the motion by Mr McLellan which “calls upon Mr Dornan to make a full public apology to the company for casting groundless aspersions on the integrity of its staff.”