SOUTH Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has expressed his fear that recent cuts to bus services are the “tip of the iceberg” with more public cuts on the way.

Mr Smyth has said that the cuts are a result of the “double whammy” of a shortage of bus drivers and the axing of emergency grants to bus firms by the Scottish Government.

Last week, the local MSP questioned Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth in the Scottish Parliament over the possible impact of the decision to withdraw the network support plus grant from bus companies.

The fund, which was put in place to support the industry through Covid, came to an end last month, with the industry saying soaring costs and passenger numbers not returning to pre-pandemic levels meant taking the grant away would have "severe consequences".

The concerns over the loss of the grant come on the back of recent reports that a shortage of bus drivers was leading to cuts in service in some areas, with almost one in 10 bus driver posts vacant across the UK.

Scotland recorded the highest number of vacancies at 14 per cent.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Colin Smyth said: “The shortage of drivers is hitting services in the Borders, as can be seen from the frequency of the X95 service, but so too is funding.

“The minister will know that the 101/102 service between Dumfries and Edinburgh through Midlothian, Lanarkshire and the Borders is under threat because the tender for that service came in 90 per cent higher than the previous contract, for the very reasons, such as fuel prices, that she has mentioned.

Read More: Viral gritter naming competition returns for this winter season

“Does she (the Minister for Transport) think that more or fewer services will be under threat as a result of her decision to withdraw the network support grant plus from bus companies?”

Replying, Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth, said: "The member will know that that funding came to an end this month.

"However, in an update that I provided to Parliament during a previous session of question time, I confirmed that I was urgently seeking assurances from my officials on what more we might be able to do to support the bus industry.

"I very much recognise the challenges that it faces at the moment, in particular in relation to fares and driver shortages, which we have touched on.

"We are already investing in the bus network. The resource spending review has provided more than £2.1 billion for bus transport over the rest of this parliamentary session, so significant funding is there.

"However, I recognise the challenge, which is why I remind the member that, as I said in Parliament only a matter of weeks ago, my officials are urgently looking at options in this space.

"The member needs to recognise the financial challenge that has been presented to the Government, and not as a result of its own actions.

"We will work within the competences of the Scottish Parliament to see what more the Scottish Government might be able to deliver. I hope to be able to update Parliament further in the coming days to that end."