HOLYROOD recently passed the Transport Bill and it brings some much-needed modernisation to the rules governing the way we get around Scotland.

There was an unusual but welcome moment of consensus during the parliamentary debate

Part of the reason for the sorry state of bus services across Scotland is the persistence of Thatcher era regulations which make it near impossible for a council to run a municipal bus service.

The Transport Bill puts an end to these rules and it was encouraging to see the amendments on this issue supported by every party, vindicating Green’s Better Buses campaign.

At the moment, councils are generally restricted to providing a service where there is “unmet need”.

That essentially means commercial operators have abandoned the route because there’s no money in it, leaving them free to charge extortionate fares on the more popular routes.

This is a particular problem in rural areas, with too many communities cut off by margin shaving private providers.

Why should bus companies be allowed to abandon sections of the wee county while exploiting others for profit? Public transport is a public service and should be run for your benefit, not that of corporate shareholders.

The new regulations make it easier for councils to run a truly public transport network, replicating the success of Lothian Busses where the network is affordable, popular, and expanding.

Sadly, bus use in Scotland continues to decline, but it’s easy to see why when they remain expensive and unreliable. These new regulations are the first step in arresting that downward turn and giving everyone a clean, efficient and affordable alternative to the car.

Sadly, there wasn’t complete consensus on the Bill. There was much controversy regarding the Workplace Parking Levy, which was often misrepresented by parties opposed to the measure.

The levy has proven to be successful in Nottingham, bringing much needed funds for public transport. Its also a measure that’s been championed by Labour in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as, during her time as Transport Minister, by Labour MSP Sarah Boyack.

A crucial point, often missed in the debate, is that this new law doesn’t require councils to introduce the new levy. It simply allows them to and its unlikely Clackmannanshire Council will chose to.

Realistically, it’s likely to be confined to the city centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

If a local authority believes that the measure is inappropriate for their area, then they are under no obligation to introduce it.

NHS facilities are exempt by default, but councils are also free to add exemptions which might be appropriate for their circumstances.

Councils can design a scheme that suits their needs if it is developed alongside full consultation with the community and the funds raised are used to improve transport throughout the area.

This Bill represents progress for transport in Scotland. Thanks to Green pressure it puts an end to dated Tory regulations which have simultaneously kept our bus services substandard while lining the pockets of private profit.

We need, and deserve, better public transport. This is the start of that journey.