EVERYONE in Scotland deserves reliable, accessible, and affordable public transport.

Whether that’s buses, trains, trams, or active travel options too – no-one should be forced into private car ownership simply because there is no viable alternative.

Put plainly, getting folks out of cars and on to public transport is the right thing to do for people, and planet.

And access to public transport is also a critical social justice issue. Whether or not you have access to a decent bus or train route can either reinforce or lessen the impact of poverty.

For rural communities, this is often felt particularly keenly.

With Greens in Government, we’ve seen some exciting developments on transport over the past year and a half.

Hundreds of thousands of young people now have access to free bus travel, with 34 million journeys already taken so far this year. A third of young folks in Clackmannanshire have now signed up for their U22s pass – and I can’t wait to hear more stories of their newfound freedom. The message to the rest is get signed up now!

We’ve seen record investment in active travel, ScotRail brought into public ownership, and radical changes coming round the corner on how bus services can be run by local authorities themselves.

But the challenges we’re facing are stark.

Every week, I receive emails from my constituents concerned about the state of bus services where they live. Despite record funding from the Scottish Government and transformative policies like free bus for U22s, private bus companies are still failing passengers across Clacks.

That’s why I recently hosted a packed bus summit, bringing together constituents from across the region with industry and policy experts, to chart a course of action to improve services.

It was clear that folks from Clacks felt that the current service provided by McGills did not meet the needs of rural communities. The impact of the withdrawal of the X53, the re-routing of the replacement 202 service, and the alteration to 51/52 timetables earlier this year has had a significant impact on villages in the Hillfoots – with folks in Muckhart complete cut off from any bus service at all.

But communities also had brilliant ideas on how to restore and revive bus services in Clacks – including radical proposals to bring services into public ownership or community ownership.

It was a shame not to have a representative from McGills in the room, despite inviting them to attend. We’ll be writing to McGills following the summit, and I hope they’ll engage with us on driving forward solutions for services in Clacks.

There’s a lot of problems with bus services in Clacks, but our bus summit proved that our communities are ready to work together with operators to improve services and are full of exciting ideas for change.

If we’re able to match this vision up with financial investment and new opportunities – like the potential for local authorities to tender for their own bus services when they get the full powers next year, I’m confident we will see a real revolution in the way buses operate in Scotland.

By working with communities, we can start to design public transport that truly works for the people of Scotland. And that’s something worth fighting for.