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Community transport charities in Dumfries and Galloway could be in line for new vehicles after SNP ministers said they were seriously considering campaigners requests for capital.
The good news was given to Annandale Transport Initiative’s AGM by keynote speaker Joan McAlpine MSP.
Ms McAlpine spoke at the AGM shortly after contributing to a Scottish parliamentary debate on community transport.
Ms McAlpine said: “I have written several letters to ministers on behalf of Annandale Transport Initiative asking for some kind of capital fund that will allow them to replace vehicles. After Wednesday’s debate I am confident that those pleas will be listened to.”
During the debate Transport Minister Keith Brown said he was aware of concerns about ageing vehicles and the difficulties of replacing them. He told the Scottish parliament:
“I have looked into [the possibility of using]…the procurement powers of local authorities and the Scottish Government to make it easier for community transport organisations to procure new buses, and I was very keen that if the Scottish Government was able to help out with the provision of new assets, we should do so.
“We hope to very quickly come to a conclusion on what support we can give through a grant scheme to help some operators replace their current vehicles.”
Ms McAlpine used the parliamentary debate to praise Annadale Transport Initiative which is based in Lockerbie and runs six minibuses and two people carriers.
She said: “The 40-plus volunteer drivers are inspiring in their commitment to Annandale Transport Initiative, and the quality of their work is such that the organisation has achieved Investors in People recognition three times.”
The debate followed a report on community transport by the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee.
The Committee report, which was published earlier this year, took evidence from a wide variety of providers including many of them in Dumfries and Galloway which has one of the highest numbers of community transport charities in Scotland because of its rural nature.
The Committee’s report praised the work of community transport projects which are run by volunteers, and can be a life line for older and disabled people particularly in rural communities.
The report found that access to capital was difficult for the charities and many of the vehicles, which were purchased at the turn of the millennium have now reached the end of their life.
Until 2008 money for community transport came from central government but it was then switched to local authorities some of whom have failed to pass it on to the volunteer providers.
Many community transport campaigners told the committee that even when councils do provide funding it is on a year to year basis meaning they cannot plan ahead.
A link to parliamentary debate can be found here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=8584&mode=pdf
A link to the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee’s report can be found here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_InfrastructureandCapitalInvestmentCommittee/Reports/trr-13-07w.pdf