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Drive for UK-wide coach industry aid package

By Alan Beresford

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LOCALLY based coach firm Mayne's of Buckie were among dozens of businesses attending a virtual summit led by Moray MP and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

The Backing Business event was held to gather the views of business people on the latest coronavirus restrictions and what further action government should take.

Mayne's of Buckie operations director Kevin Mayne asked about support for coach operators during an online Q and A session.

He said hundreds of operators had gone out of business since March, with the loss of thousands of jobs.

Earlier, in a speech to those in attendance, the Scottish Conservative leader outlined a blueprint for involving businesses directly in decisions about future restrictions. Mr Ross has also called for the SNP government to urgently publish a Winter Economy Plan.

Mr Ross said: “I was pleased to see local companies amongst those that took part in this national event today.

“Our coach operators are a hugely important part of our economy, and have suffered along with the tourism and events sector more widely throughout this pandemic.

“I want to make sure that companies like Mayne's have the support they need so they can play their part in rebuilding the economy.

“I know that coach operators – like many others – have benefited from the furlough scheme introduced by the UK Government but we need both our governments to do more.

“I have taken up the concerns of operators with UK Treasury and transport ministers.

“But we also need the Scottish Government to step up to the plate and for both our governments to work together as we build back better from this crisis.”

Mr Mayne – who is also a member of the Scottish Executive committee of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), widely recognised as the voice of the industry – said that he and colleagues in the industry had been pushing for a sector-specific support package for the last seven months. This lobbying has been aimed both at Holyrood and Westminster.

He continued: "We have in Scotland been working closely with Fergus Ewing who has taken the latest Scottish proposal via Scottish Government economists to the UK government and Mr Ewing’s counterpart Nigel Huddleston MP, Mr Huddleston is using the CPT Scotland Aid to Trade proposal to UK level.

"We await further discussions with various UK ministers in days ahead.

"It is fundamentally and financially crucial to the UK as a whole that coaching is assisted due to the vast importance our industry has not only to the tourism industry but the social inclusion and connectivity of our nation. All we can do now is to keep pressure up on the powers to be, but as businesses, prepare for what is going to be a long winter and take the necessary decisions, some of which will need to be ruthless if the industry is to survive in anything like its present form.

"If something does come from government, then it will be welcome relief, but we should not depend on it."

Mr Mayne went on to say that some 7100 out of 42,000 directly employed in the coach industry – a sixth of the workforce – had already been made redundant with over 100 operators across the UK having gone to the wall.

He added: "Douglas has been very helpful since March and the Scottish government also are playing a pivotal role in trying to help our industry but the real issue is whose door do we 'chap' on, and will they answer?"

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