Poison pill claim

Bus tycoons tell ministers to ‘stay out of business’

James and Sandy Easdale
James and Sandy Easdale: Are the SNP and Greens leaving a poison pill for Labour?

Bus compny tycoons James and Sandy Easdale say the Scottish Government’s “pitiful record”: in running businesses means they should not be interfering in companies “which are not even failing”.

The two brothers own McGill’s Group, the biggest independent bus company in the UK, and are waging a campaign against plans by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport to introduce franchising to the network.

Sandy Easdale said the ferries saga at Ferguson Marine, which was nationalised by the SNP-Green government, is symptomatic of a series of bungled attempts to interfere in businesses.

“From the minute the Scottish Government got involved [with Ferguson Marine] it has been one mistake after another,” he said.

“Now they are supporting that pitiful SPT quango who are hell bent on ruining the bus industry in Strathclyde. They can’t run businesses, full stop. They need to butt out and let businesspeople run businesses.  They shouldn’t be interfering in successful enterprises. They subsidise failed business to an enormous degree and because they have no accountability there then is no cap on waste or gross overspending.

“I am beginning to think the SNP-Greens know they are finished and are leaving a poison pill for Labour when they win the next election.

“Businessmen like James and I must account for every penny, or we would go bust. Government just pluck £50 notes from the magic money tree. And who provides all this money – the already battered taxpayers.”

Mr Easdale said there was growing frustration over the government’s attempts at managing big organisations, including public services.

“Look at how Police Scotland, our schools, NHS Scotland, GP surgeries are run. This is all down to a lack of business experience, financial planning and long-term strategy – and officials who think throwing money at it will fix it.

Glen Sannox ferry
Ministers have been criticised for the still-unfinished ferries on the Clyde

“If it was coming out of their own pockets, like our investment does,  they would not be so cavalier. Everything they do is a short-term fix to try and keep them in power. I have news for them – their jackets are on a shoogly peg.”

McGill’s chairman James Easdale added: “Governments can’t run businesses. Councils are even more challenged and if they muck up, which they will, the government will have to step in despite what [First Minister] Humza Yousaf says. 

“Only last week Glasgow Councillor Angus Millar claimed there was billions of foreign investment lined up to develop Glasgow. Would you invest in Glasgow when you see the anti-business dogma that flows out of the City Chambers on a daily basis?”

The Easdales’ comments follow a flood of frustration over issues such as the aborted deposit return scheme and the now-postponed plan to extend parking charges in Glasgow to 10pm.

The government insists its initiatives are designed to create a fairer and greener “wellbeing” economy and that it needs to encourage greater use of public transport against declining passenger numbers.

It will point to support for business such as pioneering “techscalers” to help startup companies, measures to speed up the planning process, and tax relief for small businesses.

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