Most vulnerable in our society at risk if schemes close, says charity
Soaring fuel, labour and vehicle costs are threatening Scotland’s vital community transport services.
The Community Transport Association (CTA) says that over 170 groups across the country which deliver not-for-profit transport services are facing rising costs, as well as growing demand from an ageing population.
Community transport in Scotland delivered over 802,000 passengers, over 890,000 journeys and over 5.18 million miles in 2021.
But new research finds that many operators are struggling to survive on shoestring budgets and run services on small, short-term grants.
One in three Scottish operators rely on just one source of funding and few have benefited from an inflationary uplift to their grants for many years. Nearly one in two face rising demand.
Fares are rising and some schemes may be forced to close. CTA says this would have a devastating impact on many older and disabled people, as well as isolated and deprived communities, who rely on Community Transport to access education, employment, hospital appointments or the local high street.
CTA’s More Than a Minibus report calls on the Scottish Government, local authorities and other funders like the National Lottery to ‘deliver fair, adequate and multi-year funding for Community Transport which keeps pace with inflation, contributes to core operating costs and sets flexible conditions’.
Alongside the new report, CTA has also launched the first-ever map of Community Transport in Scotland. The interactive, online map will help passengers, funders and others to find local schemes and support in their area.
David Kelly, CTA’s Director for Scotland, said: “Our new report powerfully illustrates that Community Transport in Scotland is about so much more than a minibus – it’s about bringing communities together; helping older and disabled people to access amenities and public services; and tackling big problems like climate change, loneliness and poverty.
“Our members across Scotland are also innovating with new and exciting models, from e-bikes to car clubs. Community Transport is leading the way to net zero, reducing car use and carbon emissions.
Some 12% of the sector’s fleet already hybrid or electric. But our research also reveals a £87.4 million funding gap, which needs to be closed to decarbonise the sector.”
He added: “As Scotland struggles with a cost of living crisis and transitions to net zero, Community Transport is more important now than ever before. But many are worried about the future.
“That’s why we need urgent action from national and local government to protect funding for the sector to ensure operators – as well as the people and communities who depend on them – can not only survive but thrive.”