Bus tycoons tell Scotland’s politicians to get a grip on business reality

James and Sandy Easdale

BUS tycoons Sandy and James Easdale have told Scotland’s politicians to “put up or shut up” regarding their industry.

The brothers’ warning comes on the back of several high-value announcements from the biggest independent bus company in the UK.

Over the past decade, the Easdale brothers have spent more than £200 million buying buses, building infrastructure and expanding and developing through the acquisition of regional companies.

  • A new £7.5million order of 23 buses from the world’s biggest bus manufacturer, Yutong, via its UK importer, Pelican Yutong. 
  • A £7.5million investment with international operator Flixbus to increase their long-distance coach travel business throughout the UK.
  • An order of £2.5m of coaches for a forthcoming business expansion.
  • Annual footfall growth of 16% with McGill’s (Scotland West), driven in no small part by McGill’s work to save Glasgow’s night bus services and initiatives to encourage more people to take the bus such as Free Bus Friday events.
  • Continuing investment in McGill’s zero-emission electric fleet, now standing at more than 100 vehicles after £55million of investment. For its fleet size, McGill’s (Scotland West) has the largest percentage of electric buses in the UK.
  • In the past 10 years, £161m has been spent on buses and infrastructure by McGill’s and associated brands.
  • £50million spent by the Easdale portfolio acquiring companies.

The Easdale brothers said that at a time when public finances were at breaking point – culminating in the recent cancellation of all NHS Scotland building projects – politicians needed to stop indulging in populism and engage with businesses such as McGill’s to properly address the challenges faced by Scotland’s economy and communities.

Sandy Easdale said: “The government can’t run the NHS, schools, ferries or repair the roads, so who has the expertise to run a major transport company? Are we expected to invest millions and wait for government to try and confiscate that from us through an ego-driven franchise competition?

“I am fed up hearing the SNP and Labour banging on about nationalisation and privatisation. Bearing in mind the black hole in Scotland’s budget, do they honestly think a nationalised company could even think about the major financial investment we are putting in place?

“Believe it or not the Scottish Labour website, under the heading ‘Put our bus services back in public hands’ states that they ‘will extend free bus travel to under 25s, with a long-term goal of universal free bus travel’.

“Like many business figures in Scotland, my brother and I are seriously considering supporting Labour to get rid of the failed SNP and Green coalition. However, when the party comes out with nonsense like free travel for everybody, you begin to wonder if the next promise will be free beer for the workers and a £30,000 wage even if you don’t work.”

James Easdale added: “There is a severe lack of business acumen evident in the two parties. Between the SNP’s mismanagement of the ferries and Ferguson Marine and Labour’s insane idea of a windfall tax for the oil and gas industry which could put 40,000 jobs at stake, you have to wonder what act of self-harm will be dreamed up next by our politicians.

“What on earth induced Keir Starmer to come to the Scottish Labour conference with the plan for a windfall tax and cause major consternation in the north east? No doubt they’ll tell us these unemployed oil workers can just build wind turbines but we all know that’s like comparing oranges to apples.

“In our case, we are investing heavily to grow our business, providing jobs and putting money into the coffers of the public purse. A lot of capital expenditure has gone into our tie-up with FlixBus, an international travel operator. If left up to our political leaders, that simply could not happen – and it is doubtful that FlixBus would want to take the risk of operating here.

“It is high time that politicians set out a path for economic growth for Scotland rather than simply announcing more uncosted giveaways and punitive measures on job creators.”

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