Scotland’s transport system is unaffordable and prevents too many people from finding jobs, a damning report has found.

Campaigners say the fragmented nature of the bus and rail network means many parts of the country lack reliable services, with the poorest Scots left trapped in poverty as a result.

Commissioned by Transport Scotland and carried out by the Poverty Alliance the report highlights how the unreliability and unavailability of public transport particularly impacts families with young children as alternative options are often scarce or unsuitable.

The report is launched at a time of growing hardship across Scotland, with over one million people – including around one in four children – living in the grip of poverty even before the covid pandemic.

While the Scottish Government announced in March that free bus travel would be extended to all under-22s, the report wants it to go further.

The Poverty Alliance published an open letter in May calling on party leaders to support an extension of free bus travel to all under-25s, as well as everyone on low income benefits.

Peter Kelly, director of Poverty Alliance, said:“These findings support what communities have been telling us for many years – that too many families in Scotland are locked into hardship because of our transport system.

“In the just and compassionate society we all want to live in, our public services should help secure a decent life for everyone.

“Yet as this report makes clear, right now our transport system is tightening rather than loosening the grip of poverty.

“That’s why action is needed now to address both the affordability and availability of public transport.

“There are a range of policy solutions that should be implemented, including – as participants in the research told us – widening access to free public transport for people on low incomes, as well as taking steps to better connect communities, particularly rural communities.”

Welcoming the report, SNP transport minister Graeme Dey said: “Our national transport strategy sets out an ambition for everyone in Scotland to have fair access to the services we need.

“The findings from this research highlight the urgent need for us to develop actions to address the interlinked challenges of public transport availability and affordability on a specific and targeted basis.

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“We are already working to introduce the legal changes required to extend free bus travel to everyone under the age of 22.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our public transport system and the Scottish Government has to date committed additional financial support of up to £1 billion to the transport sector.

“As we work to support a fair and sustainable economic recovery from covid it is imperative that we also introduce a fair system for paying for transport which alleviates the strain on those living in poverty, particularly children.”

The Scottish Government’s outlay on official cars has questioned after figures revealed it spent more than £1.2m on vehicle costs in the space of a year.

Figures, obtained by Labour, show the cash was spent on purchasing new vehicles and “additions” from February 2019 until January last year.

Nearly £100,000 of these costs (£96,480) was paid to Elon Musk ’s Tesla company, a company specialising in high-end electric cars and dogged by allegations of workers’ rights violations.

Labour questioned why spending on official vehicles was running at almost £100,000 a month during the period for which figures were shared.

The Scottish Government said the cars in question were pool vehicles, used only for official business, and were procured as part of its wider carbon reduction plans.

“To fritter nearly £100,000 on Tesla while thousands of Scots are struggling to make ends meet is a slap in the face to the people of Scotland.

“Of course, the government needs to spend money on vehicle costs, but the amount of money paid in such a short time does not just raise eyebrows, it raises alarm.

“We need answers from the government over this eye-watering wastage of public money, and we need them now.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to phasing out petrol and diesel cars from the public sector fleet by 2025 and replacing fossil-fuelled vehicles with plug-in or fully electric vehicles where appropriate.

“This is demonstrated by our increased investment in ultra-low emitting electric vehicles, which now make up 51% of the overall current fleet (and 100% of the current Government Car Service fleet).”

The Scottish Government should have moved quicker to warn Glasgow residents of the presence of a new covid variant in the city, Labour has claimed.

Nicola Sturgeon used a media briefing on May 14 to announce Scotland’s most populous council area would have to remain at Level 3 of lockdown while the rest of the country moved to Level 2.

It came after a localised outbreak of virus cases was detected in Glasgow’s southside, with the new Delta variant blamed.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said residents should have been warned sooner – but the SNP accused her of making a “ludicrous attack”.

The First Minister had spoken at an earlier media briefing on May 11 to suggest mainland Scotland was ready to move to Level 2.

Glasgow was finally moved to Level as of today – meaning residents can finally legally invite people into their own homes for non-essential purposes for the first time in eight months.

In a written response to a question lodged by Scottish Labour, Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed the Scottish Government was initially informed that the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of covid-19 had been upgraded from a ‘variant of interest’ to ‘a variant of concern’ on May 6.

Baillie said: “This is shocking evidence of inaction, dither and delay at the heart of the SNP government.

“Instead of taking decisive action to ramp up testing and vaccinations when the threat was first identified, the SNP sat on their hands – potentially prolonging Glasgow’s lockdown through inaction.

“Businesses were allowed to plan to reopen and are now at breaking point. People made plans to see their loved ones that couldn’t go ahead. People’s finances and mental health have been pushed to the brink.

“The people of Glasgow and, indeed, the people of Scotland deserve so much better.

“The Government has a duty to act swiftly to protect the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Scotland – they have catastrophically failed in their duty.”A spokesman for Humza Yousaf said: “This is a ludicrous attack by Jackie Baillie, who either doesn’t grasp the basic facts or is deliberately trying to mislead people.

“The fact the Delta variant was a variant of concern was already widespread public knowledge on May 7, when it was publicly declared as such by Public Health England for all four nations of the UK

“The designation of a variant is a quite separate process from outbreak management, where health protection teams work in local areas to assess the risk and deliver a proportionate response.

“That is exactly what happened in this case with Glasgow, where we continued to monitor the situation and decided not to relax restrictions as a result – the very opposite of the inaction Labour suggest.

“Jackie Baillie should get her facts right, and in the meantime apologise for trying to mislead the public.”

A Central Scotland MSP says the growing mental health “crisis” among young people in Scotland is “totally unacceptable”.

New statistics from Public Health Scotland show more than 2000 youngsters had been waiting for over a year to begin vital mental health treatment at the end of March.

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “red listing” ­Scotland as holiday ­bookings slump amid confusion over Covid-19 rules.

Industry leaders have warned ­hundreds of millions of pounds is being lost because tourists don’t know if the country is open for business.

While much of the nation has moved to Level 2, the First ­Minister announced on Friday that Glasgow – a major transport hub – will remain in Level 3 for at least another week.

It means people cannot travel in or out of the city without a good reason or visit one another’s houses. ­Hospitality firms also face tighter rules.

Meanwhile, even in Level 2, strict social distancing rules mean many venues and visitor attractions are closed or operating at reduced ­capacity.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said: “We carried out research which showed very clearly that forward ­bookings are exceptionally low across the country, particularly in our cities.

“From my conversations with ­businesses and ­representatives across all tourism sectors, it’s apparent that guidance in some respects is not clear enough.

“We receive a number of inquiries every day from people unsure about what they can and can’t do in Scotland. So it’s critical there is clear communication from the Scottish and UK Governments to ensure anybody looking to visit or holiday in Scotland is equipped with clear facts.

“There needs to be a very strong and clear message coming from the ­Scottish Government that Scotland is open and we welcome all.”

An STA study found 83 per cent of hoteliers believe their business will be financially unsustainable if trading at two metres physical ­distancing – a requirement even at Level 2.

Stephen Montgomery, of the ­Scottish Hospitality Group, added: “The danger is that the First Minister is effectively red listing Scotland as a destination this summer. It’s crucial for the ­hospitality sector to get back on its feet and start ­employing people again.

“As things stand, people ­thinking of visiting Scotland on ­holiday don’t know whether they’re even allowed to travel through ­Glasgow or if they’re allowed to book a hotel. Public health is paramount but it feels like the ­Government is just not interested in listening or ­working with business and that’s putting hundreds of ­millions of pounds worth of ­economic activity at risk.”

The decision to keep Glasgow in Level 3 has come after Covid ­outbreaks, mainly on the city’s south side, although hospital admissions have not risen significantly.

Every other area of Scotland is in Level 2 or Level 1. In England, tiered rules have been dropped after being deemed ­ineffective and too hard to ­understand.

Paul Waterson, owner of the Golden Lion Hotel in ­Stirling, said: “The ­situation is dire, bookings are way down and this idea that everyone was going to be rushing out on staycations just hasn’t ­happened. We’re sitting from one day to the next not knowing what the rules are going to be, it feels like the Government has learned nothing.

“In Glasgow, you have this crazy situation where you can go into a pub but you can’t get a drink.

“Potentially hundreds of millions in revenue will be lost over the next few months which should be some of the busiest of the year.

“We still don’t have weddings of any size, we don’t have ­conferences, we don’t have many attractions open which bring in ­tourists.”

Sturgeon has said she hopes ­Glasgow will be able to move to Level 2 on Saturday and it’s hoped the rules will ease further in mid-June.

But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Glasgow firms had been “struggling to survive” and that the SNP’s approach to business needed a “complete overhaul”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said there needs to be a “proper route map and exit plan”. He added: “I think there is a real risk that public trust and ­confidence is breaking down.”

SNP MSP has claimed an independent Scotland could guarantee a couple with children a minimum income of more than £37,000 a year.

Neil Gray admits the plans have not been costed.

But the deputy convener of his party’s flagship Social Justice and Fairness Commission said a future Holyrood Parliament could unite behind a minimum income policy to beat poverty.

He also called for a “greater distribution of wealth” as a way of paying for a more generous social safety net.

The Commission, announced by Nicola Sturgeon in 2019, aims to offer a policy “blueprint to future governments” if Scotland breaks away from the UK.

In an exclusive interview with the Record, Gray said the proposals in the Commission – which also include the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use – have yet to have the costs outlined.

But he points to work by social justice charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to back up one of the Commission’s key ideas, which is for a pilot of a minimum income guarantee. The report says the concept is based on a combination of minimum wage, tax allowances, income-related and other benefits, as well as pensions.

Gray, 35, said: “We very much based our work around the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I think their figures for a single person were £19,200 a year, and for a couple with children around £18,700 per person a year.

“I think that would provide a far greater investment in people than we are seeing at the moment, and would provide far greater security.”

Asked if he believed an independent Parliament could reach the levels outlined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, he said: “Yes, I think we could.”

A land value tax and increasing social security payments are also ideas the Commission’s final report said should be considered. Another key call is the eradication of poverty.

Gray gave credit to the last Labour government for cutting poverty levels but said progress on social security under devolution can be undercut by Tory policies such as scrapping the £20 uplift in Universal Credit.

On the economy, an independent Scotland would be likely to start with a large budget deficit and the SNP will face detailed questions on the affordability of the Commission’s recommendations.

Asked if the focus of an independent Scotland would be on deficit reduction, Gray said: “I don’t think it is necessarily going to be that at all.

“The negotiations around creating an independent Scotland, obviously the deficit will be part of that, but we are inheriting a deficit that has been made on our behalf. It’s not been made by us.”

Asked how the Commission’s recommendations will be paid for, Gray said: “We very deliberately said this is not a costed manifesto.”

The report looks at potential tax rises and is positive about the introduction of a land value tax which could hit large estates. Gray said: “There needs to be a greater distribution of wealth in Scotland at the moment. We have a huge amount of wealth tied up in land.”

The party’s new Commission contains a series of worthwhile policy ideas, but the hard graft will be producing a credible plan on paying for them

Parts of the SNP’s Social Justice and Fairness Commission will be welcomed by progressives across the political aisle.

Although many of the Commission’s recommendations relate to independence, scrapping Tory welfare policies is a principle people on the centre-left can sign up to.

The report’s commitment to eradicating poverty is to be applauded, while the support for higher state pension payments is certainly eye-catching.

The problem for the SNP is not the policies per se, rather it is coming up with a credible way of funding their wish list.

Before the pandemic struck, Scotland had a huge budget deficit which, if rolled over into independence, would constrain policy options.

Given the UK Government’s state interventions over the past 14 months, it is inevitable the deficit north of the border will have increased even further.

The report backs a Land Value Tax and “sin taxes”, but questions will be raised over their ability to meet the costs of the hugely ambitious proposals.

An earlier SNP prospectus on independence – the Sustainable Growth Commission – is another headache for Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

By contrast, the social justice commission advocates a set of policies that would take the leash off public spending.

A fair counter argument is the SNP has effectively turned its back on the Growth Commission, given that it was written before covid arrived.

But in the absence of a revised economic blueprint the SNP are left with expensive policy options and no pot of gold to pay for them.

Painting a picture of a better future is commendable. The hard part will be finding the money.

Holyrood is a “middle class Parliament” that does not “walk the walk” on progressive politics, according to a professor at Edinburgh University.

James Mitchell called for resources to be used for the benefit of poorer areas and claimed the Parliament had not “really” addressed poverty.

Devolution has seen successive governments use their powers to make different policy decisions than those taken at Westminster.

However, critics have argued that big ticket items like free personal care and free prescriptions have benefited middle income earners the most.

Around one in four children north of the border live in poverty and the educational attainment gap is still sizable.

Mitchell, a seasoned observer on Scottish politics, spoke about the decisions made by the Parliament in an interview with ITV’s Representing Border.

He said: “The Scottish Parliament has got the powers to do an awful lot.

“Now, you could argue that they could do other things with new powers, but frankly they’ve got ample powers to be getting on with the job, and they are not really using them.

“They are not really addressing poverty with the kind of focus that the language, the rhetoric, would suggest.

“I don’t think you can get away with the argument, all the time, that it’s somebody else’s fault – you have it in your gift to do a lot, let’s see if you can get on with it.”

He continued: “The middle classes are doing quite well in Scotland. And this has been a middle class Parliament for a middle class population and electorate from the start.

“If we are going to tackle poverty, going to tackle that education gap, we are going to have to start moving resources about and putting it into poorer areas and into those who are served less well.

“On education, for example, shifting the resource into the schools, into the areas and into the communities and families that need it most. Frankly, we talk the talk on progressive politics, we don’t walk the walk.”

An Ayrshire community is in turmoil with furious residents saying they have been forgotten.

Wallacetown in Ayr has been plagued with problems for years with those who stay there calling for urgent action.

Now community leaders have issued a damning statement of “harrowing” and “intolerable” living conditions, as they call for the flats, known locally as White City, to be flattened.

Chair of Fort Seafield Wallacetown Community Council Norman McLean has called for urgent investment and resources to be ploughed into dealing with “chronic” issues.

It comes after we told of horror flats within the community, with residents at a block on MacAdam Square having to deal with horrendous scenes of drug use at their front door.

But Norman has accused South Ayrshire Council of turning a blind eye to “rampant” drug abuse and anti-social behaviour.

The community councillor told Ayrshire Live: “It is reported in the national press that Wallacetown is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland.

“Drug abuse and anti-social behaviour are rampant and require a continuation of multi-service action as an immediate priority, prior to substantial investment being made in the entire area. The general environment created by poor maintenance and lack of investment makes the above behaviour inevitable.

“The chronic issues appear to have been side-stepped by officials and the administration for years in that there has been no material improvement that is in any way apparent.”

In February 2020, Wallacetown was regarded as the 22nd most deprived area in Scotland which was revealed by The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Norman feels council chiefs should prioritise Wallacetown to ensure it is liveable for tenants.

He added: “The council should use the same zeal to address the Wallacetown issues. This misdirection of resources must be challenged as it cannot be right.”

Resident of Wallacetown and community councillor Alison Logan stays in a block of flats on MacAdam Place.

In the four years she has stayed there, the 54-year-old has dealt with having no buzzer or secured entry to her flat.

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