THE news that Stagecoach intended to cut their number 23 service, which ran from Stirling through Clackmannanshire and on to St Andrews, came as a massive blow to many communities throughout the wee county.

The service provided important links for places like Muckhart and Dollar and without that route many people would have found themselves cut off with no way to access work, education or leisure via public transport.

The depth of feeling on this issue was abundantly clear when over 700 people signed my petition and wrote to Stagecoach laying out their opposition to the cuts.

Having spoken to communities in Clacks, as well as in Fife and Kinross, there was a real sense of loss when this service was axed.

Community action has had results and now First will be picking up at least part of the route ensuring that no one is left completely isolated.

The new service, X53, has been approved by the Traffic Commissioner and will commence later this month. It will run between the Kinross park and ride to Stirling with stops including Dollar, Tillicoultry and Muckhart.

Running every two hours, it will ensure people in Clacks can be in Stirling on time for a nine o'clock start and actually represents an increase in frequency compared to the old 23 service.

I am, of course, delighted pressure from the community has brought results and First have stepped in to pick up the slack. I'll be meeting with First soon to discuss ways to engage the community and make sure the new service is a success.

But we can't ignore that there are still many problems with the way public transport operates in Scotland.

The fact is that Stagecoach used the pandemic as an excuse to cut back services which communities rely on.

While its great that in this instance First have stepped up to mitigate the effects the fact that communities in Clacks remain reliant on the whims of the private sector to ensure they can access public transport remain a problem.

Bus usage is in decline thanks to high fares, infrequent services and uncomfortable buses. I'm currently conducting a survey of bus users in Clackmannanshire on these issues which you can contribute to by visiting

In the face of a growing climate emergency declining bus use is simply not acceptable, but that is the reality we face.

More cars on the roads means poorer air quality and makes it increasingly unlikely that Scotland will meet its climate targets.

It's understandable that the coronavirus pandemic has made people anxious about making use of any form of public transport, but that situation can't last forever and it's incumbent on operators to do all they can to make sure people feel safe using their services.

Thanks to the Scottish Greens it is now possible for councils across Scotland to replicate the successful Lothian Buses model used in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. Their buses are more popular and more affordable than the rest of the country.

But we know councils will need support to make this ambition a reality and the Scottish Government needs to make public transport a genuine priority. It's time to stop letting public transport exist solely for private profit.