Haud the bus!

Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement and Campaigns Officer, Simon Ritchie, is working with Transport Scotland to gather the views of older people on all things transport. This research is taking place via a series of Age Scotland Network Meetings right across Scotland in two phases – Spring and Autumn 2018.  Transport Scotland is reviewing the National Transport Strategy, first published in 2006, to ensure it meets the needs of society now and for the next twenty years.  

18342285_1440445112689121_8800983467175109032_nOn Saturday 24th March I travelled across the country to Helensburgh on the Eastern shore of the sparkling Gare Loch. I was on my way to a meeting of Grey Matters, a local Age Scotland Member group for older people which works to connect them with their community and ensure they have an enjoyable and fulfilling life. I was joined by my Community Development Team colleague, Charlie Murphy, as well as Daniel Lafferty and Jonathan Inglis from Transport Scotland.  They wanted to hear from the group members about their experiences and perspectives on public transport – feedback which will directly shape the revised National Transport Strategy for the next twenty years.

Scotland’s original National Transport Strategy was published in 2006. It had five main objectives:

  1. To promote economic growth
  2. To promise social inclusion
  3. To protect the environment and improve health
  4. Make journeys safer
  5. Improve integration in timetables and ticketing.

These objectives were to lead to three strategic outcomes: 1) improved journey times and connections, 2) reduced emissions and 3) improved quality, accessibility and affordability of public transport.

While its objectives remain every bit as relevant today as they were in 2006, it’s fair to say the world has changed considerably in twelve years, not least in terms of technology, and Scottish Ministers have decided that the time to shape a new National Transport Strategy is now.

Since 2016, Transport Scotland have been working with stakeholders to produce a loose framework for a revised NTS, or “NTS2” as it is referred to. 2018 will be the year that flesh is put onto the bones and that’s where our Age Scotland Network Meetings come in – we will be facilitating these presentations and collecting feedback from 18 Network Meetings right across Scotland this Spring and Autumn.


Helensburgh was the first of these meetings. Daniel and Jonny kicked the meeting off with a presentation in which they gave an overview of Scotland’s transport system over the past 60 years. This helped to contextualise our current transport system and also showed how rapidly things can change.

Up next were questions for discussion. Group members were asked to share and discuss their views on questions such as “Why do we think transport is a vital issue for older people?” and “what do older people need from our transport system over the next 20 years? 

There was no shortage of constructive opinions and suggestions from the floor. Matters which were discussed included stop-skipping on our railways, limited evening bus service provision, dangerous accelerating and braking on buses, connections to hospitals and disabled access on trains and buses.


Age Scotland is grateful to Transport Scotland for working with us to ensure that the voices of older people are listened to in shaping NTS2. We are also grateful to our Member Groups for allowing us the time in their meetings to discuss NTS2. Our first Meeting on 24th of March was a resounding success and we hope for a great turnout and engagement at forthcoming meetings around the country.


Working with Transport Scotland and most importantly of all, the older people in our Member Groups, we at Age Scotland are looking forward to playing our part in Scotland’s National Transport Strategy is the best it possibly can be for people of all ages – including older people who deserve an enjoyable, mobile and well-connected later life.

For more information please contact Simon Ritchie – Policy Engagement & Campaigns Officer at Age Scotland on 0131 668 8047 or email communications@agescotland.org.uk


A long walk to the polling booth for Midlothian pensioners

Age Scotland were alerted to another instance of older people being let down by public transport when Elizabeth Bryce of Newton Village in Midlothian told us the only bus going through her village had been cancelled.

“We have to walk for three-quarters of a mile to cast our vote at Danderhall library. And I’m 65 and my husband’s 71,” she said.

Mrs Bryce

Mrs Bryce

Residents of Newton and the other small villages in the area used to catch the 328 bus into Danderhall and Musselburgh but the bus operator cancelled the service at Easter claiming they were losing money. Midlothian Council have since set up a subsidised ‘Ring and go’ taxi service at a flat fare of £1.50 each way but the National Entitlement Card doesn’t cover it.

“People can go all over Scotland with their bus pass but I can’t even get to the local shops. It costs me £3 to go and get a pint of milk,” said Elizabeth.

“My friend’s in her 70’s and she had to get a house call yesterday because she couldn’t get to the doctor’s surgery. Folk are getting depressed. We used to be able to catch the bus and go and sit at Musselburgh harbour on a nice day but now we’re trapped,” she added.

Although the bus contract was not up for renewal until 2016, Edinburgh Coach Lines gave Midlothian council the obligatory 90 days’ notice of cancellation and no other tenders were considered to be financially viable. The council set up the ‘Ring and Go’ service as a short-term solution.

However, more than a month on, there is still no sign of a replacement bus.

Elizabeth thinks that the nearby Shawfair housing development is being used as an excuse to leave them without a bus, as is the new Borders railway which will stop outside the village, but neither development will improve transport links immediately.

“Why should we have to wait years,” asked Elizabeth, “when they can do something like altering the existing route of the number 30 to come through the village once an hour. That’s all it needs.”

If you have a similar story, we want to know. Please contact us:


Find out more about Still Waiting, our campaign to end transport isolation.


Community transport provision shifts up a gear

Funding of £1m towards replacing vehicles for community transport operators was recently awarded to 29 organisations by the Scottish Government. John MacDonald, from the Community Transport Association (CTA),was involved in the management of the Fund and gives us his take.

StillWaitingSupport for transport services for older people was by far the biggest feature in the applications and there was particular demand from day centres for older people. All told there were 130 applications to the Fund and total funding of more than £4m was sought so the funding has only gone part of the way to helping with the problems older people have with transport.

The response to the Government’s Community Transport Vehicle Fund has highlighted the extent of the problem but has not solved it. It’s good news that we’ve been able to get another £1m into the sector, but it only touches the surface of the problems which older people in Scotland face with transport. We had dozens of applications from day centres and other centres for older people. They told us that if they weren’t providing transport then most of their clients would not be able to get to their centres and so the facilities would not be viable. It is fine to have first class day services but if people can’t get to them you have a major problem.

The successful applicants were mainly community transport operators who made wide community use of their vehicles. Though older people are the main users of these services for shopping, getting to NHS appointments, dial a ride, etc., it was unfortunately the case that day centres were not supported through the Fund. Many of these have vehicles which are past their best and have limited lifespans. When it comes to the point where they have to be scrapped, if a replacement vehicle is not in place then this presents a serious issue for the centres.

Community transport has risen up the political agenda over the past year, and Age Scotland’s continuing campaign on this – ‘Still Waiting’ – has played a key role in this. As part of its response to the Scottish Parliament Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee’s inquiry into the future of community transport last year, the Scottish Government committed to carrying out research into the sector and, over the coming months the CTA will be carrying out a lot of this work.

Hopefully, the results of this research coupled with continued pressure will help us find a sustainable future for this vital service which underpins so many of the services in our communities.


Read more about Age Scotland’s Community Transport Campaign: Still Waiting (#still_waiting)

Find out about the impact that a Community Transport organisation has on peoples lives in this video and in The Scotsman.


Clann an Latha an De Keep On Walking!

Our active Western Isles members group is set to become even more active due to support from our Age Scotland grant pot and from the Paths for Health and NHS Western Isles Health Walks Project.

Wicker lady group and Chris Ryan

Wicker lady group and Chris Ryan

We recently awarded Shawbost group, Clann an Latha an De, a £500 grant, which with  practical support from Chris Ryan, Paths for Health Co-ordinator for NHS Western Isles,  re-kindled the group’s involvement in the Transported Walks initiative.

Chris explains how important this aspect of the project has become:

“A primary aim of our health walks project in the Outer Hebrides is to encourage people to increase their levels of physical activity through regular walking. Our early experience was that many people preferred walking out-with their immediate community and that providing transport was key to getting those people involved.

“With this in mind we introduced a transported walks programme, initially on Lewis and Harris. Working in partnership with the local authority, I put together short programmes of transported walks in several districts. Using a minibus hired from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, we have delivered programmes for 6 groups on Lewis and Harris since 2007. Three of these groups, including the Westside Transported Group, have remained very active and the Westside Group in particular have always had very strong participation with an average of 12 participants in each walk. “

Clann an Latha an De

Clann an Latha an De walking group

Recent funding changes have resulted in groups needing to fund their own transport for the walks – so Cathie Macdonald, Secretary of Clann an Latha an De, approached Age Scotland to see if we could help. “As a group, we try to find ways of encouraging ourselves to be active and healthy, and to give ourselves things to work towards and to look forward to. As well as our get-togethers, talks and outings, members really value the opportunity for guided transported walks offered by Chris through Paths for Health and we are really pleased that these can now continue.”

We are delighted that the charity has been able to link with Paths for Health and NHS Western Isles to support Clann an Latha an De in restarting this much-enjoyed activity. Jo Cowan, Development Officer North for Age Scotland said “Giving older people opportunities to come together and to keep active is at the very heart of what our member groups do. It’s a pleasure to be able to support those aspirations.”

For more information on health walks and Paths for Health in the Western Isles, contact Chris Ryan on 01851 762 017/016 or email chris.ryan1@nhs.net

An extended Family

We went to visit Age Scotland member group Broomlands and Bourtreehill Age Concern.to find out more about what they do and how important it is for them to be able to provide transport for the community.

Age Scotland is calling for a long term strategy for community transport, backed by increased and more sustainable funding. This is necessary to ensure the lives of older people who are unable to access suitable public transport aren’t blighted by loneliness, and by the negative health impacts associated with it and have the opportunity to love later life.

Follow our Still Waiting Campaign

Find out more about the Scottish Government’s recent award of £1million grant money for minibusses.



Still Waiting at the Scottish Parliament

Today Age Scotland presented Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP with 6,500 signatures gathered for its Still Waiting Petition.  But the campaign is not over yet says Doug Anthoney.

This morning we met with supporters of our campaign and prepared to brave the cold over enormous scones and a cup of tea (or coffee). Supporters turned up from local member group in Dumbiedykes, Gilmerton 60+ Group, Community Transport Association Scotland, Bus Users UK, Edinburgh Milan and the National Association of Occupational Pensioners.

blog-1We were really pleased that Keith Brown MSP and Minister for Transport and Veterans had agreed to meet us for the hand over. We headed over to the parliament and had a photo session with our supporters and were pleased to greet Mr Brown.

blog-2 Our Head of Charity Services, Katie Docherty, and the Minister had a discussion about how community transport has had its profile raised and both she and the Minister agreed that the two debates in Parliament had been very good. The Minister pointed to the £1m fund for new buses which we have welcomed as great support for existing community transport organisations but will not help address areas with no exisiting access. However regarding our, and our thousands of signatories’ call for a better bus pass, the Minister said that this isn’t something they think is possible because of the cost of putting it in given how varied community transport is and that it is deregulated.


He then had a chat with the other members of the group about where they’d come form and what their experiences of public transport were.

We were then greeted by Sarah Boyack MSP who wrapped up and came out to especially to support our campaign.

Following this morning’s gathering, we can reflect on some significant achievements for the Still Waiting campaign since its launch in February. We’ve highlighted Community Transport as a vital part of the solution to isolation among older people, and got our MSPs and Scottish Ministers talking about it.

We’ve called for a more strategic approach to the future development of Community Transport – and the Scottish Government has commissioned research which should inform this. But there’s more to be done.

We’re yet to be convinced that the future of Community Transport is secure, as the Scottish Government has declined our proposal that it be included within, and part funded by, the National Concessionary Travel scheme. Age Scotland believes that the onus is now on the Government to put forward viable alternative proposals to ensure Community Transport services can meet increasing demand as our population ages.

A huge thanks to all the individuals, organisations and MSPs who have supported us up to this point, we will be entering 2014 still attempting to end isolation for older people.

You can still sending a Still Waiting campaign e-message to your MSPs today.

Take a look at our scrapbook and take a look back at all the peope we ve met and places we have been over the last year

Read the News Story

Margaret’s not waiting any more

Last winter Margaret, who lives in Dumfries, became one of our case studies for our Still Waiting campaign for a better bus pass and to help end isolation for older people. .

Although living close to a main road with regular buses, she was unable to make use of them as she can hardly walk and, with severe osteoarthritis, can’t use a wheelchair.

She told us: “My bus pass is of virtually no use; I’ve spent most of 2012 sitting at home waiting to die.”

After we published the case study Dumfries and Galloway Council got in touch with us. They felt Margaret’s story painted local bus services in too poor a light. So Morag Halliday, our local Development Officer, took Margaret to meet them and, following this, the local Stagecoach manager visited her and found a solution to getting her mobility scooter on the bus. As you can see from the video – this is not easy, so we also arranged for a befriending scheme to provide a volunteer buddy for some journeys; previously she had had to spend a lot of money to have a professional care worker accompany her.

We are really pleased that Margaret’s story shows how we’re linking national campaigns to action in communities to improve the lives of older people.

Take action now and sign the Still Waiting petition for a better bus pass.