MSP Gil: 'I welcome the new Bill that ensures all councils must make sure seat belts are installed in school transport'
MSP Gil Paterson has welcomed in proposed legislation to ensure all school transport in Scotland has seat belts fitted – and the MSP called out West Dunbartonshire Council for not having the “common sense” policy in place already.
The Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill was launched by the Scottish National Party MSP Gillian Martin on March 1.
The proposed legislation for Scotland will enshrine in law that all school transport vehicles, council or otherwise, are fitted with seat belts.
Gil criticised Labour-run West Dunbartonshire Council after it was revealed to be one of the councils in a minority that have no requirements what so ever for seat belts on school transport.
Current laws, which the Labour administration follows, were set by the UK Government, and excuse children from wearing a seat belt on "large busses", those which carry 25 or more individuals.
Moreover, the West Dunbartonshire Council website states: "Where seat belts are provided, parents/guardians are responsible for ensuring that their child wears the seatbelt at all times."
Clearly, the local authority does not have a 100% policy in force for school transport vehicles.
The powers came to the Scottish Parliament as part of the Scotland Act Order and relates to a public petition put to the Holyrood committee.
Mr Paterson said: “This legislation is designed to save the lives of our children, should there ever be an accident on the road. It is a well-known fact that seat belts save lives.
“It is beyond belief some local authorities, such as Labour-run West Dunbartonshire Council, have not put in place what is a common sense measure - a solid policy that 100% of school transport vehicles should be fitted with seat belts - to keep our children safe.
“The protection of our children is paramount to me, so I very much welcome the SNP bill that will ensure all councils make their school transport vehicles as safe as possible.”
The Bill follows devolution of powers specifically on the issue via a Scotland Act Order, are similar to those already implemented in Wales from 2014 and relate to a former petition before the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee.
The new legal requirement is intended to come into effect in 2018 for vehicles transporting primary school children and 2021 for vehicles carrying secondary school pupils, with a staggered lead-in time to help councils and bus companies adapt to the changes.
A Scotland-wide consultation was completed between March and June last year and included responses from schools, parenting groups, transport associations and individual parents, showing a high level of support for the proposals.
The new legal requirement is intended to apply to dedicated school transport provided by local authorities, grant-aided schools or independent schools. This applies to all road vehicles (such as buses, coaches, minibuses and taxis).
Dedicated home-to-school transport is distinct from public bus services which permit fare-paying adult passengers, which some councils use to meet transport obligations to pupils through season tickets or paying for individual fares. The law in this area remains reserved to the UK Parliament.
Consultation analysis can be seen here http://www.transport.gov.scot/report/consultation-seatbelt-requirements-dedicated-school-transport-analysis-report-9208
Scottish Parliament Petition (PE 01098), School Bus Safety can be seen here http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01098