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MSPs want to see "more ambitious" school transport seat belts bill
A Holyrood Committee is calling for a bill designed to improve safety on school transport to be "more ambitious" in its scope.
In its stage 1 report on the Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill, a member's bill, the Parliament's Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee, calls for the bill, which introduces a legal requirement for seat belts to be fitted on all dedicated home-to-school transport in Scotland, to be extended to cover buses used for school trips.
While agreeing the bill's general principles, it also urges the sponsoring member, Gillian Martin MSP, and the Scottish and UK Governments, to work together to make wearing of seatbelts mandatory for three to 14-year-olds, where these are fitted on buses and coaches – this being a reserved matter. However it recognises that many children are unwilling to wear seatbelts on buses.
The committee is further unconvinced that the £8.92m cumulative costs of implementing the bill’s provisions, as outlined in the financial memorandum, are justified.
Convener Edward Mountain MSP commented: “Safety of children should be paramount and the committee is urging the Scottish Government to make no distinction between travel on dedicated transport from home to school and a school excursion. We are urging the member in charge, Gillian Martin MSP, supported by the Scottish Government, to go further with this bill, and introduce a mandatory requirement for seat belts to be fitted on buses used for school trips.”
He continued: “The committee was surprised to discover there is currently no UK-wide legal requirement for children aged three to 14 to wear seat belts where they are fitted on buses and coaches.
“Whilst we acknowledge this is a reserved matter, we call on Gillian Martin MSP, as well as the Scottish and UK Governments, to work together to make it a legal requirement for children to wear a seatbelt on school transport."
Calling for "culture change" around the wearing of seatbelts on school transport, Mr Mountain noted: “Our report quotes a school pupil, who said, 'No one puts seat belts on my school bus as it's "uncool" and if the driver comes round and tells people to wear them, they just get taken off again once he's driving.'
“The committee wants to see clear guidance and practical support provided by the Scottish Government to help ensure that this vital, positive safety improvement is successfully implemented.”
Click here to access the committee's report.