As Caitlin McDowell MSYP and I were going to meet Alex Fergusson MSP to talk about - among other things – problems with public transport, it was suitable that the bus we took to Castle Douglas was 20 minutes late on that rain-soaked day.
Amid the sprawl of Wallets Marts, and a strangely welcoming farm-like scent, sits Alex Fergusson’s new constituency office.
Having been welcomed in, and endured a photo shoot from three different photographers which highlighted my unphotogenicity rather well, we had our meeting. Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried my best to gather various issues to put to Alex. This was a little difficult with the schools being out, but Facebook’s always a fairly useful tool. The big issue that came up, as I expected, was public transport. Ridiculously high fares (over £8 for a Gatehouse to Dumfries return) and badly organised routes are irritating, to say the least. Alex was very sympathetic to this; noting the fact that all pensioners, regardless of wealth, get free bus travel, but young people don’t. Not until 21 are you eligible to be paid the full minimum wage, but at 16 you’re demanded to pay the full bus fare. It’s not great motivation for young people in this area to stick around and get a job in the region. Unless it’s well-paying enough to fund you a car, it’s not cost-effective to commute to it. Alex has asked me to draft him a motion about cheaper rural public transport for him to put forward in the Scottish
Parliament, and has promised to bring the issue up whenever he can. I’m very happy about this; it’s as much of a result as I could’ve hoped for.
We also talked to him about the Scottish Youth Parliament’s campaign for marriage equality. Alex sympathised with the idea and said he was sure it would happen within this five-year session, and that he wouldn’t mind if it did. Although supportive of civil-partnerships, he said that for personal reasons he wasn’t ready to support the idea by signing Green MSP Patrick Harvie’s pro-marriage equality motion in Parliament, and couldn’t sign our petition asking for the consultation on it to be
We’re grateful to Alex for giving up his time to have a meeting with us, and we hope he enjoys having a good read of the youth parliament’s ‘Change the Picture’ manifesto that we presented him with, and that he can support as much of its content as possible.