WE all know how it feels to be standing in the cold and wet, stranded and miserable while we wait for a bus that is never coming.

I’ve certainly spent too long looking at bus timetables and wondering how much longer to give it before finally accepting defeat and finding an alternative way home.

Buses aren’t just a convenient way of getting from point A to point B, they are also a gateway. When they don’t run or are cancelled without warning it doesn’t just cause a minor inconvenience, it cuts huge numbers of people off from the world around them.

From the busiest city high streets to the quietest nook and cranny of housing estates and villages, for millions of people, particularly elderly or disabled people and those who don’t drive, they are a lifeline.

But bus services are also a postcode lottery.

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Some parts of Scotland have really great bus services which connect their communities and open up our country. In other parts we have badly run operators and timetables that often bear utterly no resemblance to reality.

I can think of one town in my region which manages both depending on the route you’re taking.

I’ve heard from far too many people who have seen services failing or being stripped back, leaving them isolated, trapped or with a hefty taxi fare just to get home.

The result of this kind of patchy inconsistency is that far too many people don’t even try to use the bus anymore. Is it any surprise then that private car use continues to rise despite the cost and climate impact?

Despite all the problems, there are some positive green shoots.

Our introduction of free bus travel for everyone under 22 tops my list of the best achievements the Scottish Greens have had since joining the Government.

With more than 62 million journeys in the first 18 months alone, it has been a huge success.

It’s not just the hundreds of pounds that young people and their families are saving every year, it is also the new sense of freedom that it offers and the independence that goes with it.

Buses may not be the trendiest vehicles in the world, but I’m proud that they are becoming a natural choice for more and more young people. That trend benefits everyone, not just young people themselves.

Take West Coast Motors (WCM), which operates services in my part of the world.

It is now in the happy position of having doubled the frequency of services on some of its most popular routes, with the growth in numbers being largely driven by young people using their free pass.

During my first term as an MSP, one of the biggest local issues was the threatened withdrawal of the WCM-run service from Milngavie to Glasgow city centre via Anniesland.

I worked with locals and community activists and successfully campaigned to save the then-hourly service. Now the early morning buses that were once under threat have become so full that Citybus is adding extra services in order to meet demand.

That increased service benefits everyone in the community. Unfortunately cuts like the one we stopped in Milngavie have been implemented elsewhere across the country.

Free bus travel isn’t much use if there are no buses.

All too often private operators are refusing to listen to communities and are choosing to remove or scale back services despite huge amounts of funding from concessionary fares and subsidies from the Scottish Government.

This goes right to the crux of the issue. Public transport should be run in the interest of the public.

It’s no coincidence that publicly owned Lothian Buses in Edinburgh is the best service in the country. There’s no reason we can’t have similarly successful services across Scotland.

In 2019, Parliament gave councils the powers to set up locally owned bus operators, but both they and the Scottish Government struggled with the pandemic and a lack of resources.

As part of the Scottish Greens’ policy programme in government, we are establishing a Community Bus Fund to provide the critical start-up funding for interested local councils to explore new powers around franchising and public ownership.

These powers have the potential to revolutionise services.

There is a clear and obvious environmental need to invest in buses, particularly if we are going to cut emissions and reduce air pollution, an issue responsible for around 3000 early deaths in Scotland every year.

But that’s not all this is about. Improving and extending affordable bus services helps families to save money, makes our streets safer for children to play in by reducing traffic, reduces social isolation and boosts local economies.

With Scottish Bus Week starting on Monday, I want us to have a conversation about our transport connections and how we build a thriving and integrated system that we can all be proud of, regardless of where we live.