By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has expressed disappointment at the announcement from First Scotland East that it is to discontinue some services in East and Mid Lothian and that it may close its Dalkeith depot, with resulting redundancies. Up to 200 jobs may go as a result of the decision.
The bus company, which has entered consultation process with trade unions on the possible job losses at its Dalkeith and Musselburgh bus depots, has cited its reason as poor trading performance and increasing fuel costs.
The Scottish Government is holding a Bus Stakeholders meeting tomorrow to address the problems facing commuters and the industry.
Announcing the service cuts, First Scotland East managing director Paul Thomas said: “We appreciate this will be distressing news for many of our staff and also unwelcome news for customers.
“However, we have for some time been running a number of services in the East and Mid Lothian regions at a loss.
“Over a number of years we have tried many marketing and pricing initiatives to change this, but the extra financial pressures put upon us by the current economic climate, high fuel prices and cuts in external funding mean that we simply have no option other than to discontinue the bulk of our operation in East and Mid Lothian.”
He added: “Unfortunately, up to 200 positions are at risk from our Dalkeith depot, which we propose to close, and from our Musselburgh depot which we propose to significantly reduce in size.”
Colin Beattie, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, said:
“This is extremely disappointing news for residents and employees, as community transport plays a vital role in these communities.
“I will be in regular contact with First Scotland East and welcome their efforts to minimise redundancies. It is good to see that the Scottish Government’s PACE team has been in touch to offer assistance to anyone facing redundancy.
“It is encouraging to hear the Scottish Government is in talks with the company and I hope the surrounding local authorities will co-operate in finding the best solution to protect services and support jobs.
“In tough times for bus companies the best action all parties could take would be to back the fuel duty regulator proposed by the SNP as an amendment to the Budget Bill, which would deliver relief on soaring fuel prices and help hard-pressed commuters.
“The Scottish Government’s bus stakeholders group will get everyone round the table to work out a sustainable future for the industry and it is that kind of practical action we need to protect future services.”
Christine Grahame, SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, said:
“This is very unwelcome news for residents, commuters and staff employed by First Scotland East. Hopefully we will see a sale of the operations and the continuation of the services.
“I will be in contact with the company to urge for no compulsory redundancies and to seek further information on the impact of these cuts and hope Lothian buses, new operators or local authorities are able to assist.
“The main problem facing bus companies, as highlighted by First Scotland East, is increasing fuel prices at a time when the economy is also struggling.
“This is why we urge the UK Government to deliver urgent action to tackle the crippling cost of fuel. Prices need to be brought permanently under control as soaring prices don’t just hit car drivers but are pushing up the prices for bus companies and hindering economic recovery.”