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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Women’s and Girls’ Safety (Public Transport)

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item is a debate on motion S6M-08122, in the name of Jenny Gilruth, on women’s and girls’ safety on public transport. I would be grateful if members who wished to speak in the debate were to press their request-to-speak buttons.


The Minister for Transport (Jenny Gilruth)

Tomorrow marks international women’s day. It is a globally recognised date, which this year focuses on the theme of embracing equity. This week, parliamentary business from justice to transport embraces that theme. It is a welcome development from the Parliamentary Bureau, and one that I hope continues, because understanding the gendered inequalities that women continue to face in 2023 is not something that we should debate only on 8 March every year.

I was really pleased, Presiding Officer, to welcome your leadership on the matter last week through the publication of your report, “A Parliament for All: Report of the Parliament’s Gender Sensitive Audit”. Having provided evidence to the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee, which is the only male-only committee in our Parliament, I know why representation matters. When women’s voices are not at the table, policy is framed without us. That should not be the case in a Parliament where 45 per cent of members are women.

As the first female Minister for Transport in Scotland in two decades, I care deeply about the experience of women and girls on our transport system. Transport remains a male-dominated industry in 2023. From ferries to buses and from road to rail, women’s voices are few and far between. That perhaps accounts for why, historically, the data on women’s safety on public transport in Scotland has been so lacking.

As observed in Caroline Criado Perez’s excellent book, “Invisible Women”, the gender imbalance across the transport sector fuels a bias in transport planning, which largely adheres to male patterns of travel. Criado Perez gives the example of a local council planning a gender-equal snow-clearing schedule and its implications for transport. She notes:

“The men (and it would be men) who originally devised the schedule knew how they travelled and they designed around their needs. They didn’t deliberately set out to exclude women. They just didn’t think about them”.

Scotland, much like the world over, has a transport system that is largely designed by men for use by men. What is the impact of that approach? Fear of crime forces women to change their travel behaviour. Criado Perez notes studies from Finland, Sweden, the United States, Canada, Taiwan and the United Kingdom that show that women adapt their behaviour to feel safer.

Women should not have to adapt their behaviour. Our transport networks need to change to better accommodate and reflect women’s lived experience, particularly, and importantly, given that women are far more likely to depend on public transport than men.

In February last year, I announced my intention to consult on women’s safety across our public transport networks. The first phase of that work was incorporated in Transport Scotland’s public attitudes survey, which was extended to include questions on the experience of men and women on Scotland’s public transport systems.

The initial findings told us that a third of women who took part said that they were concerned about their personal safety when using public transport compared with only a quarter of men, and a higher proportion of women said that that influenced their travel choices. More women than men also said they had been the victim of harassment when using public transport, most commonly in the evening.

Although that data helped to provide some quantitative input, today’s debate is largely informed by an in-depth report that focused on women’s experience of Scotland’s transport system. The second phase of the research looked to gather views from regional transport partnerships, transport operators, Victim Support Scotland, Engender and the British Transport Police.

We also heard directly from women and girls aged 14 to 86. I want to thank all the contributors who took part in that vital report by contributing their time and experiences. The analysis of that engagement work was published in the report today, and I hope that colleagues will review not just the recommendations but the powerful personal testimonies of the women and girls who contributed.

It is clear that feeling less safe when using public transport impacts on women’s and girls’ mobility. The majority of contributors felt the need to maintain a constant state of vigilance when using public transport—or, as one female transport worker put it, the need to

“always be looking over your shoulder”.

Women and girls recounted experiences of being the target of inappropriate comments that were sexual in nature and unwanted attention from male passengers. The majority of contributors seemed to accept that such behaviour is typical or not unexpected when travelling by public transport, especially late at night.

It is deeply concerning that that behaviour has become normalised to the extent that it is accepted and tolerated. To tolerate is to allow the existence of something that one dislikes or fundamentally disagrees with. Women should not have to tolerate. They should not have to thole it. Women should be able to travel on our public transport networks in safety, and men should learn how to behave themselves.

In some cases, women from ethnic minorities face particular difficulties. Some have spoken of having been subjected to racist verbal abuse and comments from other passengers. I think that everyone in the chamber would agree that that is not acceptable in a modern Scotland.

The research highlights the daily strategies that women in Scotland use as an accepted part of their everyday routines to keep themselves safe. The list is quite long, but I feel that it highlights the issues. It includes women always keeping their keys in their hands as they approach home, especially at night, so that they can open the door quickly or use the keys as a weapon if needed; never cutting across parks or walking through wooded areas away from streets or roads late at night so that they are always visible to others; not using headphones or using only one earphone when walking home alone in order to be able to hear people approaching and to be more aware of their surroundings; sitting downstairs on the bus, at the front of the bus or near the driver; sitting close to other women on board public transport, or sitting next to families who might be considered safer; choosing to sit in busier train carriages rather than quiet or empty ones; completely avoiding public transport at night and opting for a taxi instead; avoiding getting off at unlit or poorly lit bus stops and diverting accordingly; making telephone calls to friends or family while making journeys so that someone can independently track their journey’s progress; asking male relatives or friends to meet them at bus stops or stations to accompany them on the last part of the journey home; wearing flat shoes or trainers to be able to run away or escape if necessary; using tracking apps, such as those that are available for Uber, and sharing them with friends and family to track journeys; and travelling in twos when using taxis or staying with friends overnight in order never to leave a female alone in a taxi as the last one to be dropped off.

Katy Clark (West Scotland) (Lab)

The minister has outlined fully the problems. In 2000, Sarah Boyack MSP, who was then the Minister for Transport and the Environment, undertook a similar survey on personal safety for women on transport, and research and guidance were agreed. Was that guidance used when the ScotRail tender was prepared, for example?

Jenny Gilruth

Katy Clark will appreciate that the data that she has cited is rather historical. I think that I was still at school when Sarah Boyack was the transport minister. However, I can certainly raise that matter with Transport Scotland to get an answer to her question.

The point that I was trying to address is how exhausting it is to be a woman in Scotland in 2023 when we simply want to travel home safely. It is extraordinary that such behaviours have become the norm for women and girls when they use public transport. Scotland is not unique in that respect, of course. All over the world, fear of crime is among the most important reasons why women choose not to use public transport.

I draw members’ attention to one of the findings from the research, which shows that women and girls have concerns about reporting incidents for fear that they will not be taken seriously. Contributors expressed concerns that, even if an incident is reported, nothing will change. Some simply did not know where to report or whom to speak to, and they expressed cynicism about there being any consequences for the perpetrator. That suggests that issues surrounding women’s safety on public transport are more prevalent than the statistics highlight, due to underreporting.

It is clear from the research that much needs to be done to improve the experience of personal safety for women and girls when using public transport in Scotland. Currently, women and girls bear the brunt of responsibility for dealing with the issue and adapt their behaviours to try to be and to feel safe when travelling on public transport. However, the burden should not rest with them; rather, wider systemic change is needed, supported by more practical interventions to enhance safety further, give women and girls a greater sense of freedom and maximise the opportunities that are afforded by public transport.

Last week, I met members of the Scottish Youth Parliament who are keen to support this work as we move forward with the summit that is proposed in the motion. We discussed the importance of challenging behaviours and that that could be adopted as a response to the report.

One of the most powerful ways in which that could be done is through the bystander approach. I discussed that in November with the British Transport Police, which is keen to support our work in this area. There is some really good learning that could be adopted from Police Scotland’s excellent “Don’t be that guy” campaign, which looks to tackle sexual violence.

The research highlights 10 recommendations. I will not go into detail on all of them, but I draw members’ attention to three. First, for women and girls working unsociable hours, there needs to be a better range of safe travel home options for transport workers. That is also particularly relevant to those working in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries, who are often faced with the extra expense of a taxi home if they are concerned about using public transport. I commend the work done in that area over a number of years by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—USDAW. That work is highlighted in its “Safe journey” campaign, which acknowledges that women are twice as likely to feel unsafe on their way to work as men are. I am keen to work with all trade unions and partners through the planned summit, building on their campaign work.

Secondly, the report recommends that consideration should be given to ensuring more visibility of staff and having more staff presence at times when women and girls feel particularly vulnerable. The research highlights that that could offer more reassurance for those using public transport. To that end, I note the Labour amendment, which is focused on ticket office proposals from ScotRail. Although there are currently no plans to close any ticket offices in Scotland, unlike in other parts of the United Kingdom, I must take cognisance of the outcomes from the report. I have therefore instructed my officials in Transport Scotland to include the proposals as part of the national conversation, which will launch in a matter of weeks. It is important to remember that visibility of staff could also include staff on trains.

Thirdly, the report recommends that a better system be put in place that enables women and girls to report incidents and for those incidents to be adequately acted on.

Of course women’s safety on public transport is not a matter that transport policy alone can address. It is societal and it is cultural. Wider work is being done across the Scottish Government in that respect, which we will require to draw on. From Police Scotland’s “Don’t be that guy” campaign to making misogyny a hate crime, all of Government will require to play a role.

We can and must do better on this issue. The full recommendations from the research are clear: the aim is that the Scottish Government, transport operators, police authorities and other stakeholders take action. A collective effort and on-going collaboration and commitment will be required to take the work forward. The motion commits to a wider stakeholder summit to engage stakeholders in the Scottish transport sector in order to progress the report’s recommendations.

I hope that today’s debate enables us to start that process by considering the issues and recommendations from the research in order to identify practical actions. I look forward to hearing members’ contributions.

I move,

That Parliament notes the publication of new Scottish Government research on Women and Girls’ Safety on Public Transport; encourages operators, police authorities and other stakeholders to adopt the recommendations put forward by the report; regrets that women and girls are adapting their behaviour to try to feel safe when travelling or working on public transport; notes that wider systemic changes, supported by more practical interventions, are required, and supports a commitment to engage stakeholders in the Scottish transport sector in a summit, which will progress the recommendations from this report, to ensure that Scotland’s public transport is made safer for women and girls.


Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I start by apologising for the length of this speech, which will probably be my longest speech ever, but it was out of my hands, and I will, of course, take interventions.

There are two things in the background to the debate. First, there is the research that was commissioned by the minister, which is very good, although it would have been helpful to have seen it a little bit earlier. Secondly, tomorrow is international women’s day. In general, I am not a fan of naming days. In my view, every day should be women’s day—it certainly is in my house.

I will come on to the minister’s research later, but I say at the outset that everyone has the right to feel safe on public transport, be they female or male, whatever their background or race, or be they able bodied or disabled. I was chatting to representatives of the British Transport Police last week, and they certainly share the view that everyone in Scotland has the right to feel safe when travelling by rail. The BTP takes a zero-tolerance approach to violence, antisocial behaviour and sexual harassment. Working in close partnership with Network Rail and rail industry colleagues, BTP officers are out across Scotland’s rail network, day and night, to keep the travelling public and railway staff safe. As part of the BTP’s mission to keep everyone safe, it asks the travelling public to report crime through its text 61016 service and the Railway Guardian app.

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the text service. It offers the travelling public and rail staff a means of contacting the British Transport Police directly and discreetly in order to report non-emergency crime. In that time, the BTP has had half a million reports using the service.

The free Railway Guardian app helps the travelling public and rail staff to report crime to the British Transport Police and offers information on what to do if anyone sees sexual harassment on trains or at stations. Users now have the option of uploading media evidence directly to the app, which is great. By using those vital tools, the travelling public’s small actions can make an enormous difference for the police.

I mention the work of the British Transport Police in my amendment. I have not had a great deal of hassle on public transport in my life. My most uncomfortable journey was probably when I sat next to a fellow journalist who got increasingly drunk on a rather long flight, when we had work to do at the other end.

Will the member give way?

Graham Simpson

I will just finish my point first.

Drunken behaviour is, of course, something that people must deal with on buses and trains. I am not out late too often, but I would try to avoid the last train home, especially if I am out with my wife.

Fiona Hyslop

I detect that the member might be struggling with the issue somewhat. Could he give some indication that he genuinely understands what women face? Their experience is personal, and they can feel very isolated and really defensive. Does he agree with me that it is very important that the Parliament debates the issue, because it affects so many women, not just somebody who goes home with him on the last train home at night?

Graham Simpson

I had hoped that this would be a consensual debate. I completely reject that, because I fully accept that women face particular issues on public transport. Everyone faces issues, but that applies to women in particular.

The coping strategy that I have just described is something that women must always think of. For them, drunken and boorish behaviour can be especially stressful. I note the report’s recommendation on that, but it is a tricky issue and I do not think that we can have a one-size-fits-all approach.

Work that was carried out before the pandemic showed that more than half of women in London had been victims of unwanted sexual behaviour while travelling on public transport. The most common type of incident, which was experienced by more than a third of women and 12 per cent of men, was a stranger deliberately pressing themselves up against a person. I noted in the minister’s report a section on invasion of space and a description of men sitting next to women when other seats were available. I am not sure that any of us likes that, but that would be particularly uncomfortable for a woman.

Transport Focus published its “Experiences of women and girls on transport” report in March 2022. It collected the views of 1,200 females across Great Britain. Most said that they felt “very safe” or “reasonably safe” across different modes of transport. The number of respondents who felt “very safe” ranged from 15 to 30 per cent. That is in comparison with the 59 per cent of respondents who said that they felt “very safe” using a car.

When planning or making a journey, 85 per cent of respondents thought about their safety. The types of mitigations that were taken included travelling at particular times of day, using specific routes, avoiding certain types of transport and travelling with others. I suspect that we will hear that throughout the debate.

The incidents that were described by respondents included sexual assaults, intimidating or predatory encounters, being physically assaulted or threatened and feeling unsafe due to antisocial behaviour. Around half the respondents said that they had felt threatened when making a journey on public transport. More than two in five had been subjected to verbal aggression and 14 per cent said that they had been physically threatened or assaulted when making a journey on public transport.

Transport Scotland produced a very useful report in June last year. The section on personal safety issues said that data from the Scottish household survey shows that twice as many women as men disagree that they feel safe and secure on the bus and train in the evening. In addition, twice as many women as men cite concerns for personal safety on dark or lonely roads as a barrier to cycling to work. We have not mentioned cycling yet.

United Kingdom data from the UK Government Equalities Office shows that, in 2020, of those who had experienced sexual harassment in the previous 12 months, 28 per cent had experienced it on public transport.

There are similar issues in relation to rail travel. Statistics from the British Transport Police show that there were 63 reports of sexual assault on ScotRail trains between 2017 and 2021.

Campaigners have suggested that the British Transport Police presence should be increased at stations. Would the member support that?

Graham Simpson

Yes, I would. That issue is mentioned in the report that the minister commissioned. Greater staff and police presence would be a great help.

Women-only train carriages have been suggested as a possible solution to safety concerns, but I agree with my good friend Mick Hogg, from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, that that would be a logistical nightmare. I hope that he is watching.

The minister has told of her own experiences, and I think that she was quite right to commission the research that she did. The report is very fair and shows that there are no easy answers. It also shows that women’s experiences differ, not just from those of men but from those of other women. Some of the strategies that are used in order to keep safe are also used by men.

Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee City West) (SNP)

The member is talking about the strategies that people use in such circumstances. It is really important for us, as men, to recognise that there is a huge responsibility on us to adjust our behaviour and to try to put ourselves in the mind of a woman who feels threatened in a particular situation. We should think about the actions that we could take that might alleviate such a feeling. One of the challenges is that, sometimes, things that we, as men, find comforting might be threatening to a woman. We should recognise that men, as well as being the bulk of the problem, must be part of the solution.

Graham Simpson

I thank Joe FitzPatrick for his speech. I agree with the points that he has made. Men have to reflect on their own behaviour, because we—men—are the problem. It is men, not women, who are causing the issues for women.

The report shows that women’s experiences differ. Some of the strategies that are used are also used by men. Women should not have to sit close to other women or next to families on board public transport because that might be considered safer; they should not have to make telephone calls to friends or family while making journeys so that somebody can track their journey’s progress; they should not have to ask male relatives or friends to meet them at bus stops or stations in order to accompany them on the final part of the journey home; and they should not have to wear flat shoes or trainers in order to be able to run away or escape if necessary.

People spoke of the need for a more visible police presence—that point was raised earlier—and that is the case in general, not just on public transport.

I was pleased to see that staff were also spoken to. I have been working very closely with Women in Rail. We will have an event in the Parliament later this year, and I note that Natalie Don will host an event for Women in Transport next week. We will not get women to work in the industry if it does not feel safe.

The recommendations in the report are sensible but not surprising. They include using technology; sharing best practice; providing better information for women; dealing with drunks; improving lighting; doing more research and training with drivers of public transport and reviewing the training that is already offered; and having more staff at boarding points. That final point is key, and it should make ministers here and elsewhere think before cutting back.

I am sure that we are in for a good and consensual debate today. I commend the minister for commissioning the research, as well as those who carried it out and took part in it.

I move amendment S6M-08122.2, to insert at end:

“; notes the 10th anniversary of British Transport Police’s (BTP) Text 61016 service in March 2023, and encourages people to use BTP’s free Railway Guardian app, which helps the travelling public and rail staff to report crime to BTP and offers information on what to do if people see sexual harassment on trains or at stations.”


Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

On behalf of Scottish Labour, I welcome this important debate on the safety of women and girls on public transport. My Labour colleague Katy Clark called for the Government to hold such a debate last year, so I am pleased that we are holding one today.

Violence and harassment toward women and girls is, sadly, an issue across our society. It affects women and girls everywhere: in the home, on the street and on public transport, too.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics suggested that nearly half of women across the United Kingdom felt unsafe using public transport alone after dark, compared with only one in five men. In a survey this month, Transport Focus found that only 15 to 30 per cent of women feel very safe on public transport, compared with 59 per cent who said that they feel very safe in a car.

This is not a new problem, but sadly it appears to be a growing one. It has been reported that the British Transport Police has stated that reports of sexual harassment and sexual offences have increased by 175 per cent since before the pandemic.

I want to recognise at the outset that it is almost entirely the behaviour of aggressive and abusive men and boys that causes women and girls to feel unsafe on public transport. I have said before, and I will say again, that there is a duty on all of us—including men—to do whatever it takes to help to tackle this issue, including challenging the behaviour of other men, whether strangers or friends. It is a cultural problem. I do not think that it is possible for me to fully appreciate the experiences and feelings of women and girls when using our public transport, but there is a duty on all men to try to fully understand them and to do something about it.

Women are more likely than men to be reliant on public transport, and their views must be listened to. It is vital that there is full engagement with women passengers, women’s organisations and trade unions on the issue.

The one thing that I hear loud and clear when listening to women is that while they use public transport, their fears regarding safety exist from leaving their door to arriving at their destination—particularly at night. That involves walking to, waiting for and travelling on public transport.

I was recently contacted by a constituent who was followed by a man after getting off of her train in Renfrewshire.?I would be happy to share details on that with the minister privately, but it is crucial that the voices of women passengers are heard.

I join the minister in thanking the authors of the research that we received yesterday, and we will consider and review it carefully. I very much agree with the recommendation about improving lighting at stations and bus stops, and on ensuring that real-time information on services is available and accurate. There is also clearly an issue about inadequate lighting in our communities for walks to and from stations and stops. That requires investment, and the reality is that we need to give councils the budgets to make it happen.

The safety of women is another reason why we need to improve the reliability of services, which has been raised already. On that issue, I am receiving more and more complaints about bus service cancellations and withdrawals from constituents, including many women. A bus service being withdrawn means women having to walk further to get a bus, and a bus service being cancelled without notice leaves passengers stranded at bus stops. At night, in particular, that can leave women and girls trapped in potentially unsafe and vulnerable situations.

Despite several requests, the minister has been unable to compile how many bus services are being cancelled across Scotland daily. I do not think that it is acceptable that the Government does not know how many buses are being cancelled daily, and I urge the minister to compile that information. Bus cancellations need to be monitored and tackled, and ensuring the safety of women travellers makes doing so even more vital.

The report also highlighted the use of apps and technology that can potentially help to provide reassurance, advice and assistance. There is the Railway Guardian app, run by the British Transport Police, which the Conservatives highlighted in their motion, and I understand that three bus companies in Scotland—including McGill’s—are using the myTrip app. The feedback that I have had on those from women I have spoken with is that they are positive and good, so we should make sure that they are publicised. However, in order for the apps to properly carry out their functions, there needs to be someone at the other end of them to answer and respond to calls for help. Failing that, there must be clarity on during which hours women can expect a response.?

I have heard reports of British Transport Police texts going unanswered. I know that the police are being asked to do more and more with less resource. However, the key is that, if we are rolling out such technology, it cannot just be a gimmick or an app that does not do anything—there need to be people to support its implementation and to support women passengers who need assistance. Clearly, if there is a growing problem, the British Transport Police will need greater resources. That needs to be considered fully as we go forward.

That brings me to the issue of staffing more generally. As the minister said, the report recommends that we should

“explore the feasibility of increasing staff presence at both points of boarding, alighting and interchange, as well as the possibility of increasing on board staff presence at the times that women and girls feel most vulnerable (including evenings and weekends, in particular).”

That reinforces what Scottish Labour said in our debate on ScotRail last year about the need to fully staff our transport network. Unsurprisingly, Transport Focus has also found that a lack of staff presence can heighten feelings of vulnerability. Our amendment today makes clear that the minister and the Government should reject proposals to cut ScotRail ticket desk opening hours.

Staff who work in booking offices do much more than sell tickets. They give advice to passengers, assist disabled passengers and make our railway more accessible. Importantly, they also deter antisocial behaviour and are a presence that makes the railway safe, which is a concern for many women who travel alone.

We talk about the importance of listening to users and to women’s voices, so we should do that. Last year, ScotRail consulted on cutting opening hours at 117 ticket offices, and just 1 per cent of people were in favour of the proposed cuts, with the remaining 99 per cent citing concerns around ticket sales, accessibility, antisocial behaviour and safety for women and vulnerable groups. Given that, why are the cuts still on the table? Why should the issue even be on the agenda for the national conversation on rail? We need to fully staff our stations and trains.

The issue of alcohol is discussed in the report. People who are intoxicated with alcohol on public transport can fuel aggressive, abusive and intimidating behaviour towards other passengers. Our rail union colleagues tell me that, largely, such people do not get drunk on a train; they are already drunk before they get on one. That matter deserves further discussion.

Jenny Gilruth

When I meet the railway unions, I am always struck by the fact that there are no women involved in the management of those unions. I would be interested to hear whether the member has spoken to any female members of railway unions about their views on alcohol consumption on trains. I was struck by some of the feedback in the report from those who work in our transport sector—some horrific experiences are recounted in a bit of detail. I just want to be sure that Mr Bibby has been in discussion with female railway trade union members. If not, I would be keen to hear more from them directly.

Neil Bibby

It is important that we listen to the trade unions and the voices of women, as I said. I said just before the minister’s intervention that we require further discussion on that issue.

Although I understand the reasons for a ban after 9 o’clock in the evening, I have said publicly that, like many passengers—men and women—I am not convinced by the complete all-day and all-services ban on ScotRail trains. That was brought in because of Covid and not for any other reason. I am not sure that it is proportionate or the solution, given that cases of harassment have gone up since Covid.

Having said that, I note that passengers, including many women, have asked me what the point of the ban is if it is not enforced. The report mentions that. Surely it would make more sense to target resources on ensuring that there is no consumption in the evening, rather than have an all-day and all-service ban. Last year, I asked the minister a series of written questions on how many times the ban had been breached and what the consequences were for passengers for doing so. I was disappointed that the minister responded by simply directing me to the British Transport Police. Again, I would hope that the Scottish Government and the transport minister would want to know that information and would share it. That goes to the heart of the problem with the issues of alcohol on ScotRail trains.

That takes me on to the issue of antisocial behaviour more generally. Statistics show that incidents of antisocial behaviour on our trains are on the rise. Anecdotally, it is also happening more on our buses, although we do not know the full statistics on that. Although the vast majority of young people are good citizens, I am increasingly hearing reports of a small number of people committing antisocial behaviour on our buses. For example, Kilmarnock bus station was closed last year. I reiterate that we need to understand fully the extent of the problem and ensure that our police have the resources to tackle it.

I thank the Government for bringing the debate to the chamber, and the authors of the report for their research, which we will consider carefully. Scottish Labour will work with the Government, and with all parties, on this matter so that we do all that we can to ensure that women and girls are safe, and feel safe, not only on public transport but from their door to their destination.

I move amendment S6M-08122.1, to insert at end:

“; believes that in order for women and girls to feel safe and be safe, the public transport network needs to be accessible and properly staffed; rejects proposals for any cuts to ScotRail ticket office opening hours, which would be a retrograde step in this regard, and calls for assurances that trade unions and women’s organisations will be actively included in the work for safety on public transport.”


Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (LD)

Transport is key to life in Scotland, not least in my constituency of Shetland. From interisland ferries that link islands together to the bus network and air and ferry links to the Scottish mainland, transport is vital for commuting, business, healthcare, leisure and visiting family and friends.

Everyone in Scotland should have the ability to use all our public transport networks free from fear or harassment. However, for women and girls, the opposite is reported. Data from the UK Government Equalities Office “2020 Sexual Harassment Survey” showed that of those who had experienced sexual harassment in the 12 months prior to reporting, 28 per cent had experienced it on public transport.

Fear of sexual harassment on public transport was reported by 72 per cent of women. That fear leads to avoidance, with 62 per cent of women changing their behaviour in relation to public transport. All too often, women and girls are forced by fear of male violence to change their behaviours at work, at social events, in public spaces and at the gym. It is clear that they cannot even travel between those places without fear of harassment.

Research that Transport Scotland conducted prior to the introduction of the young persons bus travel scheme noted that women and trans and non-binary people are more likely than men to state that they never feel safe using the bus at night. Respondents reported feeling “vulnerable and uncomfortable” and said that they had experienced catcalling, inappropriate touching and leering from men. Public transport should offer a safe and stress-free environment where everyone can travel without fear. Public transport in Scotland’s rural communities offers a lifeline link to essential amenities, and we need to improve conditions on public transport so that women can travel without fear of being harassed.

As we encourage people to choose to cycle, walk or wheel as an alternative to public transport, we must ensure that people are empowered to do so safely. An Office for National Statistics survey found that one in two women feels unsafe walking alone after dark in a busy public place, and that disabled people feel less safe walking alone in all settings. Crime in public space impacts the decisions that individuals make daily on how they choose to travel and their route choices to reach the places that they need to get to. It can also create fear and emotional work every time that people simply want to leave the house.

I welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s new research on women’s and girls’ safety on public transport, and I thank the Government for advance sight of the report. The findings all too predictably echo previous data, some of which I have mentioned. Enactment of the report’s recommendations is important in tackling women’s safety on public transport, but more will be needed.

The British Transport Police has the well-known “See it. Say it. Sorted” campaign for reporting suspicious behaviour on public transport. Less well known, however, is its “Speak up, Interrupt” campaign to encourage and enable bystanders to intervene if they witness sexual harassment. The BTP has a Railway Guardian app, which Graham Simpson mentioned, and a text service to report crime or antisocial behaviour discreetly and directly from the train. All crimes of all types on public transport must be treated with the same seriousness.

Institutionalised gender bias and the lack of a diverse workforce in the policing and transport sectors must be addressed. Many women and girls do not feel comfortable reporting crimes to a male police officer. Having more visible female police personnel and women working in transport could help to change that, along with better training across the transport industry. Women and girls need to be confident that reported crimes will be taken seriously.

Education—through public awareness campaigns and school education programmes—is a key factor that could embolden women to seek help and encourage bystanders to intervene. Public transport spaces should be designed with input from women and other minority groups to ensure that the design of the spaces themselves is more inclusive and preventative of harm—for example, by ensuring that spaces are well lit. A full range of options for where to sit, or where to sleep on overnight transport, must be affordable and available for all. Transport providers, the third sector and the public sector must work together to ensure that daily journeys for women are safe and that women can enjoy travelling and the outdoors as much as their male counterparts do.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

We move to the open debate. I advise members that we have some time in hand, should members wish to take or make interventions. Although members’ speeches should be around six minutes long, some latitude may be afforded.


Jackie Dunbar (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

I am pleased to speak in the debate.

I agree with the Minister for Transport that every woman and girl has the right to feel safe wherever they go, which includes feeling safe when they travel. That right is fundamental to how women access education and jobs and socialise. It is time for all transport providers in Scotland to pause and reflect on the role that they can play in helping to protect women and girls as they travel.

We know that more women than men rely on Scotland’s public transport network. However, our transport system in Scotland still does not seem able to listen to, and act on, women’s views and lived experience. We must see an improvement in that.

Last year, the minister committed to undertake a consultation on women’s safety on our public transport network. That will include working with national and local organisations that represent the interests of a cross-section of women in society, as well as with groups that represent female staff who work on the public transport network.

Options to take forward the work will be informed by discussions with women’s groups and organisations, trade union partners and wider stakeholders, and I make a plea to the minister to ensure that the voices of Scottish Women’s Aid are heard as part of that. That is important because the Scottish Government’s public attitudes survey has been able to provide more Scotland-specific data on harassment or antisocial behaviour on public transport.

Interestingly, a third of women who took part in the survey told the Scottish Government that they were concerned about their personal safety in general when using public transport, compared to a quarter of men, and that that has influenced their travel choices. More women than men also said that they had been the victim of harassment when using public transport, most commonly in the evening or at night-time. It is not good enough to continue to expect women and girls to adapt their behaviour on public transport—or, indeed, anywhere.

Women expressed much higher levels of fear for their personal security in public places, whether on or waiting for transport, or in the use of car parks—again, particularly at night. That fear can, in turn, place a constraint on women’s mobility and their participation in public life—and, indeed, in their private and social lives—as they factor personal safety into routine decisions and activities.

Addressing those issues will not eliminate violence on its own, but it will support broader prevention efforts. Men should step up and say that such behaviour—especially what might be termed as low-level misogyny, which can often lead to other things—is entirely wrong and must be called out each and every time.

Official statistics from the British Transport Police show that there were 63 reports of sexual assault on ScotRail trains between 2017 and 2021. Over the same period, 26 sexual assaults were recorded at Scottish train stations, and one was reported at a Glasgow subway stop.

The BTP figures show a huge rise in the number of sexual assaults reported in 2021. Reports more than doubled to 29, from 14 in 2019, before the Covid pandemic. Almost a third of all reports over the five years were recorded in 2021, with the number falling to nine in 2020 amid Covid travel restrictions and advice for people to stay at home.

Alys Mumford, from the feminist organisation Engender, said:

“Policy makers need to recognise the safety implications around, for example, removing guards from trains, and we need urgent action to change our culture which allows misogynistic harassment and abuse to continue unchallenged.”

I ask the minister to reflect on that point, especially with regard to evening services, and ensure the availability of train guards.

I highlight Police Scotland’s “Don’t be that guy” campaign, which aims to reduce the number of instances of rape, serious sexual assault and harassment by promoting frank conversations with men about male sexual entitlement. The campaign stimulated conversations and turned the narrative away from preventative advice for women and towards a focus on men’s behaviour.

Collectively, we are responsible for the society that we live in and the underlying prejudices, sexism and misogynistic attitudes that are still far too prevalent. It is only by prioritising prevention that there can be an end to violence against women and girls. Gender-based violence is a manifestation of toxic masculinity, porn culture and an immoral set of attitudes, including a sense of sexual entitlement, that are still held by too many men in our society and around the world.

I encourage people, particularly men, to take a look at the “Don’t be that guy” campaign, and I ask the minister whether a refreshed campaign is being considered.

I welcome the debate and the steps that the Scottish Government is taking to protect women on public transport, and I repeat my asks.


Sharon Dowey (South Scotland) (Con)

I am pleased to speak in the debate and to join with colleagues from across the Scottish Parliament in sending the clear message that everybody should feel comfortable using public transport without fear for their safety.

Sadly, as my colleague Graham Simpson and other MSPs have said, the number of assaults at train stations has risen in recent years. Transport Scotland recently found that one in three women was concerned about their personal safety when using public transport and a slightly higher number said that personal safety influenced their travel choices. A UK-wide study found that more than four in 10 women had been verbally abused on public transport and 14 per cent had been physically threatened or assaulted. Those numbers are depressing and concerning in equal measure.

Looking beyond the statistics at individual cases is what should really concentrate minds on the issue. Last year, a criminal was convicted of attacking and robbing a 60-year-old woman at Paisley St James station. He repeatedly kicked her when she fell to the ground as he tried to steal her handbag. Sentencing him, the judge said:

“This was a nasty attack on a random individual and you could tell she was vulnerable and that’s why you attacked her.”

Another offender, who was convicted this month, sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl by putting his hand up her skirt. On the train from Ardrossan to Glasgow Central, his horrific attack made the victim physically sick. She said:

“As soon as I got off the train I just broke down as soon as there was room for me to do so. I was crying, I was in complete hysteria.”

Those appalling examples reveal just some of the threats to women’s safety that occur each day.

As Kelly Given from the Young Women’s Movement Scotland said last year:

“I know all too well the feeling of going home on a train at night, clenching your jaw and sitting tense and dreading getting on the train in the first place—it absolutely needs to be addressed.”

She is right: it must be addressed. I hope to hear the minister outline some of the specific actions that the Government will take in the near future to address the issue and give people greater protection when they are going about their lives.

The document that was published today by Transport Scotland is just a starting point, but it is a good starting point. There are many points to raise from it, but I was most struck by this simple point: women are scared. Women are scared of abuse, physical assault, strangers following them, antisocial behaviour and harassment. Women in Scotland are scared every single day. They describe the feeling of terror and the problems that they encounter each day as “the norm”. That is depressing, but it is true and it is wrong.

There are many possible solutions, but it comes down to this: men need to stop hurting and harming women. Not all men, but the men who inflict violence on women need to stop. They need to be called out and they need to change their behaviour. We can bring in all sorts of measures, we can ask more of the Government and we can do more to act. However, ultimately, men need to change. Until they do, this will continue to be the norm.

Although the onus must be on men not to inflict violence on women, the Transport Scotland report suggests some actions that the Government and ScotRail can take to improve the public transport experience for women.

First, I was shocked that the report says:

“Across the board, female transport workers described little to no formal training either in relation to their own personal safety or that of others.”

I hope that the minister and the Government will agree to change that immediately.

Secondly, there is clearly a need to reach more effectively those who attend football matches and concerts. I hope that the Government will look at the most appropriate way to do that, whether through a messaging campaign or targeted action from the authorities.

Thirdly, women feel more at threat at night in areas of poor lighting, so I hope that the Government will launch a review of all public transport locations, to check whether the lighting could be improved.

Fourthly and finally, improving the reliability of ScotRail would go a long way. That is certainly a major concern in my area. In the report, women raised concerns that they feel less safe if they have to wait for a long time. That fear was heightened by not knowing whether a service would be delayed or cancelled. Those problems are not specific to women, but the report makes it clear that a better ScotRail—not the sub-par service that Scots get now—would be a big boost to women’s safety.

I urge everyone to do what they can to protect women’s safety and prevent violence on public transport by working with the police to report crimes and provide front-line officers with the information that they need to catch offenders. British Transport Police urge people to report concerns directly to officers; to flag incidents using its Railway Guardian app, to which people can upload media evidence; or to discreetly and directly report any non-emergency crimes by texting 61016.


Karen Adam (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I open with a quote:

“So often, when I am being harassed by a man on public transport, no one intervenes. Then, when I am off the train, returning from work or a night out, there is no one to help. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been followed home, terrified of being raped or murdered.”

Those are the words of one woman—Sally—who spoke to my office as I prepared for the debate. They are sobering to hear, and the experience is, sadly, one that most women in the chamber and watching at home will recognise in one way or another.

Many women and girls will be familiar with sending a friend our live location when we transit to or from home. Some of us change how we dress, in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention from would-be harassers. Alternatively, we take a different longer or more convoluted route to our destination, to ensure that it is well lit or busier. Some of us do not take the risk at all, and spend a fortune on taxis. Those are just a handful of the actions that women are taking, day in and day out, to avoid harassment in public. Sadly, that extends to our transport system.

Another woman told my office:

“Every time I get on public transport, I have a flashback to a time that I was harassed. I thought I was going to die. One of the reasons I bought my car and learned to drive was to avoid encountering creeps on public transport. If I couldn’t drive and needed to take public transport to get somewhere at night, I would choose not to go.”

No one should live in such a state of constant fear, excluding themselves from public life for fear of their safety. I thank the women who shared their testimonies with me and my office. Their courage and honesty have left me dwelling on a number of questions in the lead-up to international women’s day tomorrow.

How can women thrive at work, for example, when, too often, their commutes are spent in a state of hypervigilance? How can we tackle the climate crisis through encouraging the increased uptake of public transport when so many of us fear for our welfare, and even our lives, on our buses and our trains? How can we tackle the scourge of harassment when, for too many women, there are still too many barriers to understanding and reporting harassment on our public transport? Women’s safety and wellbeing should underpin all that we do in this area, but it is important, too, to recognise that these matters have an impact on our economy, our climate and our justice system.

It is also important to reiterate that the voices and perspectives of women must be front and centre in any effort to resolve this on-going problem. It is vital that we have women representatives who are proportional to the population to ensure that there is parity of attention to women’s issues in the Scottish Parliament. Women make up 46 per cent of the Scottish Parliament, so there is a wee way to go yet, but we are closer than we have ever been to equal representation.

I had the privilege of being the SNP representative on the Scottish Parliament’s gender-sensitive audit board and playing my part in the large body of work that has been undertaken to recommend action both in parties and in the Parliament. I hope that that will make a significant difference to women’s participation in politics and elected office, because it is essential to have women’s voices and perspectives at the heart of Government.

We are fortunate to have had our first female First Minister, who has ensured that, under her leadership, our Scottish Cabinet has been gender balanced for seven years. Our Minister for Transport—a woman—has talked about her lived experience of harassment on public transport.

We know from Transport Scotland’s social and equality impact assessment that women are more likely to be a victim of sexual assault, and we are also more likely to have concerns about safety and security issues on public transport at night and a fear of being harassed or sexually assaulted.

The report that has been published today makes a number of recommendations to tackle those issues, and I want to highlight and endorse one in particular. I welcome the fact that the report specifically recommends that awareness be raised of the immediate and intermediate support that is available to those who feel vulnerable at any point before, during or after public transport journeys.

Many of the women who I have spoken to about harassment on public transport have said that any effort to tackle harassment must be door to door; it must not stop at the boundary of the train station or bus stop. I commend the work of organisations such as Strut Safe—a free, non-judgmental service that is dedicated to making women, LGBT+ people, people of colour and others feel safe walking home.

We know that misogyny and the violence against women and girls that it perpetuates are not confined to public transport. Sadly, we see them throughout our society. Eradicating the pervasive and deeply ingrained inequalities in our society will require radical and holistic efforts, but with a gender-sensitive Parliament and a gender-balanced Cabinet, I know that we can prevail.

I vow to do all that I can to ensure that the voices of women from a wide variety of backgrounds are heard in this place, hopefully working alongside colleagues in a cross-party and cross-gender way. It is only by calling out misogyny and creating a culture where the perpetrators of it are like social pariahs that we will be able to radically change the culture in our society.


Carol Mochan (South Scotland) (Lab)

MSPs have stood up and stated on many occasions the absolute importance of keeping guards on trains, maintaining safe and regular buses and ensuring that transport hubs are sufficiently staffed for the benefit of all. Whether it is to ensure that the public are protected, to ensure that people with disabilities can get on and off safely or to warn of developing hazards, those calls all have a logical and necessary reason.

A key reason why those calls have been made so consistently is that we need to ensure that those who use trains, buses and boats feel safe and unthreatened while travelling. Of course, more often than not, when we speak of that we are, sadly, focusing on women. We still live in a world where women do not always feel safe when using public transport. As we have already heard, a survey by the Office for National Statistics suggests that nearly half of women in Britain feel unsafe using public transport alone after dark.

Whether cases involve catcalling or women being pestered or whether they go as far as all-out sexual assault, the number of cases where women have been made to feel isolated and exposed by the behaviour of men on public transport is concerningly high. We have all heard horror stories, today and at other times, or have experienced them ourselves. It is worryingly common that women’s complaints are not taken as seriously as they should be. It may no longer be socially acceptable to insinuate that a woman was at fault—as was regularly claimed when I was young—but there are still plenty of ways in which women’s concerns are diminished, while emphasis is put on women changing their behaviour instead of the men who carry out the harassment.

All women have been told at one time or another that they should not get on board this or that bus, or that, if they are travelling on a train at night, they should bring someone else with them. Although people who say that mean well, it belies the fact that, in 2023, we still accept that there are no-go areas for more than half of the population of the country. The implication is that men are born with an entitlement to roam and travel that women can enjoy only in the company of men they know. Some may scoff at the way in which I have characterised that, but it is absolutely true, and it is reinforced by the fact that men who harass women on public transport often simply get away with it. They get on with their day, oblivious to the damage that they have caused, and yet, for the woman, her right to feel free in public has been severely damaged. In some cases, women will never get on a particular bus or train again. Their life has been limited by the selfishness of others. We must not put up with that. We must all agree that the actions suggested in the report and in previous debates in the chamber require to be addressed urgently.

Like others, I was shocked to learn that, in a survey of its ScotRail-employed members last year, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers found that more than 80 per cent of ScotRail women workers had been subjected to violent or antisocial behaviour at work in the past year. Of those who had been subjected to those behaviours, 80 per cent were lone working at the time. That is absolutely shocking. Those workers should not have to put up with that sort of treatment. As a democracy and a functioning society, we simply cannot let that behaviour go on without treating it with the seriousness that it deserves. Further, and perhaps just as important, we should not be making decisions that only worsen the problem. It appears, at times, that we do so without thinking.

What can be done or, better put, what cuts should the Government not implement if it is to take the issue seriously? I was glad to hear the minister’s remarks about considering the points in the report, and I would like more information on that. Making cuts to ScotRail’s ticket office opening hours exacerbates the problem. Elderly passengers, in particular, still prefer to speak directly to someone when buying their tickets, and they often rely on the ticket office’s knowledge to plan their journey. Planning a journey is an important part of feeling safe, so that support is absolutely necessary. The ratio of people in our country who are past retirement age and who use public transport skews significantly towards women. Like so many other cuts that are made without thinking, the proposal to cut ticket office opening hours will disproportionately harm women.

As we have heard, cutting bus routes and leaving isolated stations and trains without sufficient supervision inevitably leaves many women in a vulnerable position. As my colleague Neil Bibby mentioned, the number of late night bus routes that are disappearing is very concerning, not only because those bus routes have gone but because of the number of women disproportionately affected because they often work in roles that finish after dark and have no other means to get home. We know that employers are often not sympathetic to those concerns.

Finally, we must keep guards on trains and adopt a zero tolerance approach to those who are caught harassing women—or indeed anyone—on public transport. If someone cannot use railways and roads with respect and decency, some limits should be put on their freedom and not on the freedom of the women who are being harassed.


Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

As we approach international women’s day, tomorrow, this is the first of several debates this week regarding women’s experiences in Scotland today. The Scottish Government supports the notion that those who live in Scotland should live lives of freedom and equal opportunity and that a safe, efficient public transport system is one means of realising that concept.

The groundbreaking decision to extend free bus travel to those under the age of 22 has been a great success. I place on record my praise for Scottish Citylink and its new 902 service, which runs through my constituency and once again connects Coatbridge to Glasgow after a number of years with no direct bus service. It was great to meet Citylink’s operations director, Simone Smith, yesterday. It was clear from my chat with her that safety on those buses is a primary consideration, which was heartening to hear.

The decision to scrap the peak-time pricing of train fares is another way in which the Scottish Government has encouraged people to utilise our transport systems. However, our investment in Scotland’s public transport will be successful only if those who use it feel safe in doing so.

Research undertaken by Transport Scotland found that roughly 33 per cent of women were concerned about their personal safety when using public transport, compared to just 25 per cent of men. A higher proportion of women than men said that personal safety concerns influenced their travel choices. In addition, and as we have heard already, more women than men said that they had been victims of harassment when using public transport, and 15 per cent of those who had suffered harassment said that they no longer use any form of public transport after the incident. Those are startling figures for anyone, especially a man, to read.

One of the more distressing statistics to come from research by the British Transport Police was that reported sexual harassment and sexual offences on the railway have increased by 63 per cent in comparison with pre-pandemic levels—a point that was made by Neil Bibby when he spoke about the alcohol ban. That is simply not good enough. We must do more to challenge unacceptable male behaviour and to better protect women from that. We all have a role to play in ensuring that women and girls feel safer and more supported on Scotland’s public transport system. I say, as other men have said today, that men’s behaviour is the problem here. We must recognise that and do something about it.

It is also incumbent on ScotRail and the British Transport Police to keep passengers safe. An extensive closed-circuit television network and 24-hour customer information and advice hotlines should give some peace of mind to those who have concerns. As others have done, I also highlight the 61016 number, which is a text service that offers the travelling public and rail staff a means to discreetly contact the BTP in order to report non-emergency crime.

Graham Simpson

Given the picture that Fulton MacGregor so eloquently describes, I assume that he would agree with me that station staff are of enormous value. Does he agree that we should not be cutting back the number of staff at stations or reducing ticket office hours?

Fulton MacGregor

I wonder whether Mr Simpson has had a wee look at my speech, because I am coming to exactly that point. As he may well know, a couple of stations in my constituency might be impacted.

Before I talk about that, and to follow on from my previous point, I point out that anyone who witnesses a crime or who feels threatened or is in danger should always dial 999.

CCTV and customer service hotlines are invaluable, and the presence of staff at stations is equally indispensable. As the minister and others in the chamber know, I raised objections when plans were released that showed an intention to reduce staff hours at Blairhill and Coatbridge Sunnyside stations, which are both in my constituency. I went out and spoke to workers, who agreed with me.

One key takeaway from our discussions was that station staff do much more than sell tickets. That phrase might have been used already, but it is well worth repeating. Their presence deters antisocial behaviour, and station staff can act as an important point of contact for travellers who encounter any issues while travelling. To emphasise that point, one staff member told me that she had saved three lives during her time working at the station and had acted as a first responder. She also spoke about having been a help to many women and girls who felt scared or worried and had left the train at that station because there were staff there.

ScotRail and other transport operators must take those factors into account when making decisions. Something might seem to be just a cost-saving or resourcing issue, but, in an area such as Coatbridge—and, I am sure, in many others, although I can speak only for my own constituency—those decisions send a much bigger message to women and girls. I welcome the minister’s response to Katy Clark on that point.

Some people might suggest that women and girls should avoid travelling at certain times, should avoid travelling alone and should not draw attention to themselves. Why should women be forced to change their behaviour so that they can travel safely? They should not have to.

This week, we will observe international women’s day and, although we can celebrate the slow progress in women’s rights over the past century, we must acknowledge that huge inequalities continue to exist. It is a sad reality that we have a culture in which prejudice, sexism and misogyny thrive.

Men are now recognising that they have a role in standing against violence against women and girls by changing the way that they behave and calling out the behaviour of other men. Men must take the lead in that challenge. We hold a unique place in being able to challenge our peers. It is vital that men speak out. We need men to lead by example to their friends, family and children. That is the only way in which real change can be realised.

As well as the more obvious challenges, we—including me and other men in the Parliament—need to consider the smaller things. I have said to women friends and colleagues, “Why are you not getting the train?” Maybe I need to think about that. I am sure that other men in the Parliament have said similar things. We all need to think about it. It starts small, at grass-roots level. We need to think about it as a whole.

Presiding Officer, I see that I am running over my time, so I will conclude.

The Scottish Government has done excellent work in promoting the use of public transport. Feeling safe is fundamental for individuals and communities to thrive. A strong and flourishing Scotland is one where all individuals are equally safe and respected and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse, as well as those attitudes that perpetuate them.


Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

Presiding Officer,

“I got on the train. A group of men were sitting next to the only free seats. One calls out “Give us a smile hen, or better still, come sit on my knee.”

“He was the only one at the bus stop. We both got on the same bus. The bus is empty, but he comes and sits next to me. I am wearing shorts. He touches my thigh. He says, ‘you’re cold, let me warm you up’. I had nowhere to go.”

Those are just two comments from women relaying their experiences using public transport. They will not be unfamiliar to any of the women in this chamber. That is why I welcome the report, its recommendations and our opportunity to discuss such an important issue.

If women and girls cannot travel safely, with confidence and assurance, their participation in so many aspects of life will inevitably be limited: in work and study; social, cultural, political and sporting activities; and as volunteers, activists and environmental protectors. We cannot afford to lose their contribution to all those things.

The report’s recommendations are wise and well thought out, and some of them are long overdue, but they are not enough on their own. We need to address the cause of women’s and girls’ experiences of danger and hostility, rather than just mitigate the effects.

Let us be frank, the cause is misogyny. It is a misogyny that often intersects, brutally, with other forms of bigotry and bullying, including racism, homophobia and transphobia. It is important that we begin the parliamentary week with this specific issue, but it is at least equally important that we will be talking, later this same week, about the cause itself: misogyny.

Technical responses, monitoring and infrastructure, are welcome, but they cannot be the whole answer because, fundamentally, it is an issue not of technology but of people. On public transport, we need what we saw on Kenmure Street and what we see in neighbourhood food larders and climate camps: a sense of shared responsibility for one another, of solidarity, and the creation and nurturing of a culture of care.

That is why I am particularly pleased to see the recommendation about transport workers’ safe return home at night. That reflects my proposed member’s bill for hospitality workers. I hope that the recommendation will be followed whole-heartedly, not only collating and reviewing best and current practice but ensuring that real change happens—and soon. Everybody—transport workers and passengers alike—should be able to finish work with peace of mind and the knowledge that they can get home safely.

We know that public transport is safer than private cars in so many ways, but we need to make it safer in every way and make it perceived and experienced as such. In Britain in 2021, 340 women and girls were killed in motor vehicle accidents, with 137 car occupants killed for every one in a bus or coach, and 241 child pedestrian casualties were recorded in Scotland in 2021. It would be a tragedy if that number increased because women and girls were discouraged from using public transport.

We need to be and feel safe, not only while travelling on a bus or train but for our whole journey from its beginning until its end. That means having stations that are staffed and have safe places to wait, and it means having joined-up systems, making sure that intercity services are met by reliable local buses or trains, and having well-lit, well-maintained and well-signposted paths at each end. It means taking bus travel and bus passengers seriously. It is a source of shame that we talk so often about trains and so little about buses. That sneer of Margaret Thatcher’s really echoes down the decades.

There have been wonderful innovations in bus travel such as the Ember electric buses between Dundee and Edinburgh and Glasgow; they are reliable, reasonably priced, comfortable and low carbon. Experiences of local buses, especially in rural parts of Angus, Aberdeenshire, Fife and elsewhere, and their connections to town and city centres, are far too often experiences of serious delay and cancellation without notice or information, which leaves vulnerable would-be passengers waiting at dark and isolated bus stops. We know that there are major challenges in recruiting and retaining bus drivers—another of those Brexit benefits—but more can and must be done to give passengers the service, information and security that they need.

Finally, local authorities have a vital role to play, too: taking up and using the powers that they hold to support and promote local public transport. However, many are moving in the opposite direction by ending subsidies for vital bus services, which are used largely by women.

Why are streets close to bus stations not only some of the most polluted in Scotland but some of the least cared for and last to be regenerated or have green spaces or welcoming facilities? Why do so many bus stations charge, in cash, for use of their toilets? We know the answer: it is because they can get away with it.

This is, at its root, an issue of justice. There are choices to be made at every level of government and within the public and the private sectors. There are also choices to be made about whether, by taking some of the simplest decisions, we are to embed privilege or dislodge precarity. We must make the right choice and ensure that others can do so, too.


Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

Of course every girl and woman has the right to travel on public transport without fear of harassment or worse, and of course it is not acceptable that they have to adapt and accommodate such possible events. The reality is that there are measures that will help, such as better lighting at bus stops and train stations and a role for CCTV, although I note that we do not always feel secure that those function, and they are of limited use in prevention.

It goes without saying that having personnel at bus stations and transport hubs, especially at weekends and late at night, makes everyone feel more secure. I would go so far as to suggest that, especially at weekends and at night, a police presence would not go amiss.

However, I believe that there is not a woman in the Parliament who has not experienced some form of harassment, quite often of a sexual nature, during the course of their adult life. It certainly happened to me in my younger days. I will describe two occasions—there were others, none of which I officially reported. Travelling one winter’s evening in my late teens, I felt my hair being tugged—it was long in those days. I could see in the reflection of the bus window the man who was sitting behind me stroking my hair. I called over the bus conductor—we had them in those days—but he did not believe me. “Are ye sure, hen?” he said. Frightened, as the bus turned into the dark street where I was alighting, I stood up at the last minute. The man stood up, too, and followed me. I rushed off the bus and crossed the road to the stop opposite, where a man was standing. I told him what was happening. He seemed to disbelieve me but noticed that I was being followed, so, on my request, accompanied me to my road end.

The man who was following me simply stood at the bus stop. It was not my imagination. I dread to think what would have happened had that man at the other stop not been there or had not believed me. The minister said that it is important to be believed. So it is.

The second occasion was years later. On the last bus on a summer evening, I was aware that a young man was immediately behind me standing too close for comfort as I rose to leave at the terminus. I got off the bus and walked along the main road, which was unexpectedly quiet. He kept apace too close by. Concerned, to put it mildly, I suddenly crossed the wide road to put distance between us. He, too, crossed the road. I crossed again to put the width of the road between us, and I made up my mind to run to the first door and bang it, ring the bell and shout if he followed. He stayed where he was and entered a driveway. However, when I checked, he had come back on to the pavement and turned to go back.

I have other personal examples. I have told members that for two reasons. First, nothing has changed. I cannot say whether things are worse because of underreporting, and I encourage the reporting of every instance. Secondly, women are still taking evasive, preventative protection measures for their safety, and they have to. I wish it were otherwise, but it is not.

In my constituency, I have been advised by Borders Buses that, although it is satisfied with CCTV on the buses, it has concerns about its female drivers when the shift is over and they have to disembark in quiet places. That is especially an issue in rural constituencies such as mine.

As an aside, it is also the case that female taxi drivers have to take special care. Taxis are sometimes the better choice, and some taxi drivers will wait to see that the person has opened the front door of the property before they leave.

I am afraid that vigilance, and people having strategies if they find themselves in a concerning situation, are still necessary. We all have that sense when something is not quite right. Trust that sense.

It is also important that girls in schools are made well aware of situations that put them at risk. I am afraid that that is unfortunate but necessary. The use of a mobile phone so that family can track them is awful, but not a bad idea. Situations that might—just might—put them at risk should be avoided. Taking a late-night taxi, for example, might well be the better choice.

Finally, although this is not exactly about public transport, when I park my car to take the train to my local office—not just at night-time—I do so where people will be about. Without naming the station, there is one at which I would not wait for the train. The station is in the middle of fields, few take the train there, and a person can return to find that their car is the only one parked there. I learned that when I returned one late afternoon, and I vowed that it would not happen again. Experience has shown me that that could be risky. There is CCTV there, but it has its limitations, and it will be of use only after the event. It certainly did not give me comfort. It is, of course, not practical to have personnel at those rural train stations.

In conclusion, even at my stage in life, I have to think ahead about what is safe and what is not safe. Although, in my experience, the vast majority of men are decent folk and some might be unaware that their behaviour might make a woman feel ill at ease, there are, sadly, those few who are predatory and will always be with us. Identification through reporting is therefore key, followed by prosecution if appropriate. We know that what may appear to be “low-level” sexual intimidation can progress—the Sarah Everard case has taught us that. Yes, we can push transport providers and local authorities to improve safety but, in my view, vigilance from women will still be required.


Roz McCall (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I applaud Christine Grahame for her bravery in sharing those stories.

I welcome the publication of the research that was commissioned by the Minister for Transport. It is not only welcome; it is, in my opinion, imperative to moving forward and addressing the concerns that women and girls have while using public transport.

I recognise those issues from my own experience. When I first started at Holyrood, I took the train every day. The morning commute was fine, and it passed without incident. However, there were late sittings in the run-up to the Christmas break, and trains were often cancelled or significantly delayed by the time that I got to the station. That meant that the next scheduled departure would be about an hour later.

On a couple of occasions, I was travelling on the last train, getting home well after midnight. Every time, I found myself sharing the carriage with a group of alcohol-fuelled men, who always caused a disturbance.

The reaction among the handful of other travellers sitting in the carriage was the same: heads went down, headphones went in and eyes quickly diverted to anywhere but where the group was sitting. The atmosphere in the carriage changed, and there was a collective shallow breath. As a woman on my own, anxiety, discomfort and tension all flowed through me until the group disembarked the train—and I silently prayed that they would leave without incident.

I mention my personal experience not because it is in any way unique—as we have just heard—but because it illustrates that the problem runs deep in our society and in our collective experience as female travellers. I now drive. It is not because I want to do that; it is because I need to get home in a timely manner and, in all honesty, I feel safer. I recognise that that is not an option for all, however. It is therefore not surprising to me that the first main finding in the report states:

“The risk of delays and cancellations, specifically to buses and trains, explicitly put some women off using public transport at night as the risk of waiting alone in the dark was considered too great.”

What message are we, as a society, sending women and girls who want to travel to and from work or school on public transport? Public transport is an essential and affordable way for many to achieve independent social mobility.

As an MSP for the Mid Scotland and Fife region, I must also mention the appalling incidents of youth violence that we have seen on buses in Fife. Like others from across the chamber, I was shocked by what I saw in a video, and the fact that it took place on a bus in broad daylight should concern us all. Public transport should be safe for everyone. There is a collective responsibility for everyone to show respect for one other, but that is not always happening. It is a few small incidents—but sometimes incredibly violent or uncomfortable ones—that can lead to lasting uneasiness with using public transport.

We must all use public transport if we are going to lower our carbon footprint. We have a duty to increase the usage of public transport and make it safe, reliable and convenient for everyone to use. If we put up barriers to its use, no one will use it.

Now we know the depth of the problem. If we want to ensure a proper transport system that is fit for everyone, especially women and girls, we must take on board the recommendations. A couple of them stand out to me; other members have already mentioned some in the debate. One is:

“To raise awareness of the technology that is currently available to assist women and girls and explore means of making this more accessible to all, including raising awareness of the immediate and intermediate support that is available to those who feel vulnerable at any point before, during or after public transport journeys.”

The second recommendation is:

“For stakeholders to implement more robust procedures and standard practice for following-up with transport staff and public transport users who do report negative incidents to the authorities. Women and girls need to know that their complaints are taken seriously, and that they are being heard, to give them, and others, the confidence to share their experiences in the future.”

When my daughters were coming home from a night out in town, they were always comforted by the taxi’s detailed description in comparison to the nameless, distant, almost cold disinterest from the bus service. The person, the car type, the colour and the number plate were all given up front by taxi companies, using technology to create a degree of ease. Surely we could utilise something similar and create that sense of ease in other forms of public transport, with a scannable code, for instance, which could let people know their driver’s name and the estimated journey time when they get on the bus or train. There could be an instant link to text numbers such as 61016 and to telephone and online support. Proper use could be made of CCTV. All the information regarding the route, time, place, carriage number and so on would be there on people’s phones, just in case. If an incident is reported, let us treat it with urgency. That information regarding the route, time, place and so on is now on the phone, so it is easier to document and track the incident. We should also improve waiting times for victims, so they should not be left hanging.

There should be more confidence in the system so that, if something does go wrong, it will be swiftly and properly dealt with. If incidents are quickly acted upon and antisocial behaviour is treated the way it should be, there is a very real opportunity to turn around the fear experienced by women and girls.

The research that was commissioned by the Scottish Government shows that much more needs to be done to improve the experience of women’s and girls’ personal safety when using public transport.

Women and girls, as has been explained, are already taking responsibility for adapting their behaviours so that they can feel and be safe when travelling, but it should not be up to the victim to adapt to allow the behaviour of the abuser.

The specific recommendations in the report cannot be treated in isolation, and I whole-heartedly agree with the minister’s points around broader partnerships. Police Scotland, the British Transport Police, educators and those working in equalities need to work together to challenge wider stereotypes and the systemic issues that lie at the heart of the experiences of women and girls in Scotland.


Jim Fairlie (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

Text 61016. The fact that we are talking about and lauding a safe number for female passengers is absolutely appalling. As Roz McCall just asked, what does that tell us about the society in which we live today?

I am very proud of my wife and daughters, their independence, their strength of character and their determination to live their lives to the full. However, no matter how strong they are, they must endure certain toxic and potentially dangerous societal norms that are almost always perpetrated by men. Why are those societal norms? Why do we allow that? Other countries do not.

Lorraine Kelly talked about the issue on her television programme. Lorraine’s daughter had been living in Singapore and she admitted to having a very difficult conversation with her when she came back. She told her that she could not walk home on her own anymore because it is not safe and that this society is different from that in Singapore. That struck me greatly. That is an infringement on freedoms that we should all expect to have. As a man, it sickens me that that is our culture.

I dropped off my daughter at the train station last night. I waited to see her on the train; I looked to see how many folk—men and women—were on it; I told her to text me when she got to the final train station; and I told her to text me when she got home. I would not think to do anything else, because that is our society. It is disgusting.

Whether it is travelling on trains, buses or taxis, we have all become used to the idea that women need to protect themselves from predatory males. How can that be okay? How can we as males be comfortable with the certain knowledge that, by doing nothing, we give tacit approval to behaviour that is completely and utterly unacceptable?

There are numerous examples of males using the situation in which people are captive while on a train or a bus as an opportunity to get too close, and to sit in the seat beside a woman when there are more than enough seats elsewhere. They should give them the space that they need so that they do not feel intimidated or harassed. We need to call that out. Whether that is a sexual or a power thing is, to me, utterly irrelevant; it is simply completely and utterly wrong.

I listened to the same debate on the radio this morning. A lady was talking about how women must constantly adapt their behaviour to accommodate and mitigate the behaviour of men. That is unacceptable; we must change that.

The only way to do that is by men changing their attitude and behaviour. That is not about men becoming saviours or protectors of women. Women do not need white knights. Women and girls need to be given respect for their privacy, dignity and personal space, as well as their right to live their lives as they choose without fear of intimidation, harassment or even worse. When we as males see men acting in that way, we must call it out.

My message today is not to the women of this country—there are plenty of people doing that—and it is not about the provision of a hotline emergency service. My message today is to the men of this country, particularly those men who engage in such behaviour, which creates fear.

A man’s behaviour is the main thing that gives women and girls security and rids them of the fear of being unable to travel safely at night or at any other time on public transport. Inappropriate behaviour is not acceptable or tolerable. It is not just a laugh; it is not just a bit of banter. There is no need for a man to sit right beside a woman or girl on public transport when other seats are available. That is not them being friendly; that is them being intimidating. A man would not accept that happening to their mother, sister, girlfriend or wife, so they need to ask themselves why it makes them feel like a big man to intimidate a girl who is sitting alone on a train.

I am told that the gen Z generation has a far better attitude in relation to not accepting that kind of unacceptable behaviour, although I have no idea what “gen Z” actually means—this was from a conversation with my daughter. I hope that that is the case and that that means that we are getting through to people the cultural message that men and women—boys and girls—need to live together in equilibrium and that a better future is to come.

We must accept that, today, safety measures are needed to protect women and girls—I accept that we must have them—but we, as men, have to change the culture, change attitudes and change the lives of women and girls in this country, so that we are far more like Singapore.

Thank you, Mr Fairlie. I am sure that Fergus Ewing can give you an update on gen Z if you need one.

I call Siobhian Brown, who joins us remotely.


Siobhian Brown (Ayr) (SNP)

I welcome this important debate on the importance of the safety of women and girls on public transport. I commend the minister for her commitment to undertake a consultation on women’s safety across our public transport network.

It is so disheartening that, in 2023, we are still trying to tackle issues such as sexism and misogyny. I want to highlight the continuing challenges that women face daily.

Just over two years ago, Sarah Everard was murdered in the most horrific way possible while she was walking home at night. She was only walking home from a friend’s house, but she never made it back. She never made it because the unfortunate truth is that the safety of women and girls is still not guaranteed across society in the 21st century. Many of my colleagues in the Parliament and I attended a very moving vigil outside Holyrood last year, on the anniversary of the sad death of Sarah Everard. Many of the moving tributes made me reflect on how many times I have, when walking home, changed my route or behaviour if I felt at risk.

A recent incident was when, on my way home, I was walking down a dark close, as I have done hundreds of times before. A man was walking towards me with his hood up and a face mask on, and he did one thing that automatically put me on edge: when he saw me, he looked behind him. It could have been totally innocent, but that slight movement made me question why, as we were approaching each other, he was looking to see who was around.

I automatically assessed the situation. I saw a hotel about 20 yards away, so I started to walk quickly towards it and went into the lobby. The man walked on and I left the reception and continued my journey home. I could have been completely safe—I might have misread the situation—but whatever made me feel ill at ease made me walk into that local hotel without giving it a second thought. Normally, I would just continue on my journey and never think about the incident again. The sad thing is that I have probably done that hundreds of times in my life but never really thought too much about it. Now, it is just a habit for me, as I walk home, to ring my husband until I get through the door.

Today’s debate is specifically about the safety of women and girls on public transport. Every woman and girl has the right to feel safe wherever they go, including when travelling, however they choose to do so. I am sure that we are all familiar with constituents getting in touch about their experience and concerns regarding intimidating behaviour on public transport.

Public transport needs to better serve the needs of women as unpaid carers, workers, volunteers and survivors of gender-based violence. It needs to serve young women, older women, LGBT women, disabled women and ethnic minority women. As Graham Simpson said, it needs to serve everyone, because every person in Scotland should be able to jump on a train or a bus without fear that they will face violence.

Last week, I met in the Parliament representatives from the British Transport Police to hear more about their work in keeping law and order on Scotland’s railways. The British Transport Police has responsibility for safety on Scotland’s trains, and it launched a campaign earlier this year that focuses on women’s safety. As well as the Railway Guardian app, the campaign focuses on the use of the 61016 number and the role of the public in reporting incidents on public transport. I take this opportunity to ask anyone who is listening to save that number—61016—on their phone, just in case they ever need to report an incident, and to download the Railway Guardian app today.

People should, please, ensure that they report incidents. Historically, there has been a data gap in relation to such incidents, because women are far more likely not to report sexual harassment when it happens and, if they do, it is likely to be after the event.

I welcome that the transport minister has instructed her officials to take forward a programme of analysis that will allow for better data collection in Scotland.

I also welcome the findings from Transport Scotland’s report, “Women’s and girls’ views and experiences of personal safety when using public transport”. The authors found:

“Unanimously, women felt safer travelling in the day rather than at night or in the dark. Travel during the week was also seen as being less hazardous than travel at the weekend, largely due to perceptions that public transport attracted large crowds of often intoxicated passengers at weekends.”

They went on to say:

“The risk of delays and cancellations, specifically to buses and trains, explicitly put some women off using public transport at night as the risk of waiting alone in the dark was considered too great”,

and they highlighted concerns about poor lighting and lack of staff.

I welcome the recommendation in the report that we

“raise awareness of the technology that is currently available to assist women and girls and explore means of making this more accessible to all, including raising awareness of the immediate and intermediate support that is available to those who feel vulnerable at any point before, during or after public transport journeys.”

I also welcome the recommendation to

“strengthen existing rules around non-consumption of alcohol on public transport and at points of interchange”,


“Increased penalties for non-compliance and better enforcement of legislation”.

I note the recommendation to

“explore the feasibility of increasing staff presence at both points of boarding, alighting and interchange, as well as the possibility of increasing on board staff presence at the times that women and girls feel most vulnerable (including evenings and weekends, in particular).”

That would reassure women and girls about their safety on journeys.

Any form of violence against women and girls is abhorrent and, in 2023, has no place in our vision for a safe, strong, successful Scotland. As we approach international women’s day, I welcome the valuable work that has been carried out during the consultation and through the report, as well as the recommendations and commitment to on-going work, which is vital to ensure that everyone has the right to feel safe and supported on Scotland’s public transport system.


Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow) (Lab)

I welcome the launch of the Scottish Government’s research on women’s safety on public transport, especially as Scottish Labour called for a debate on the subject last year.

This is a much-needed step towards improving the safety of women and girls. As the minister highlighted, women consider our safety from the moment that we leave our front door to the moment that we reach our destination. We change our behaviour and routes to protect ourselves from potential danger, we send friends our location, we take longer routes to avoid certain areas and we pay for taxis instead of walking alone at night. It is no wonder that we do that, given that a staggering 55 per cent of women have experienced harassment or assault on public transport. That, and the threat of it, stops women from accessing opportunities.

Fearing for our safety not only has a significant impact on our wellbeing but has a wider impact on the economy and contributes to women’s poverty overall. Women’s fear of travelling is so great that around 4 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product is lost because of it. For moral, legal and economic reasons, we must ensure that public transport is safe, affordable and reliable, so that women can travel freely without fear and participate fully in the economy and society.

Sadly, in the Glasgow region that I represent and across Scotland, we are not there yet. During the past five years, bus fares in the Glasgow region have gone up twice as fast as the average across the UK, while bus usage has plummeted. That has a disproportionate impact on women, including on when they access support services that are designed to address violence against women. Organisations such as Rape Crisis Scotland are clear that cost is a barrier to women accessing their services. We need to take serious action to make bus travel affordable; that is why Scottish Labour has called for fares to be capped. People in Glasgow are paying among the highest fares in Scotland. A 2-mile journey with First Glasgow costs £2.60, whereas it costs only £1.80 to travel across Edinburgh, where buses are council owned. In Manchester and Liverpool, Labour mayors are capping fees at £2. I want to see the same thing happen in Glasgow.

It is not only cost that matters; inaccessible public transport also puts women at risk. As a wheelchair user, I know that only too well. I am unable to travel on the same bus as my partner, because we both use wheelchairs. Three months ago, late at night, when we were returning home after a light lemonade in town, we had to split up and get on separate buses. As we travelled home separately, I was followed off the bus by a man, who proceeded to ask me detailed questions about my impairment and where I lived. I had to wait 20 minutes, on my own, with a strange man, until the next bus came with my partner on it.

I was frightened and, instead of going home happy after a night out, I went home scared and angry. Other countries do not have that rule of one wheelchair user in each bus, so we must urgently address the issue in Scotland.

I also know how important it is for people to have someone they can trust around when they need help. One simple and effective way of helping women to feel safer while using public transport is to have members of staff available at bus and train stations. As we have heard, closing ticket desks and booking offices seriously undermines station safety and women’s safety. I hope that the minister will take action to protect those roles now and not necessarily after a national conversation.

Christine Grahame

Your contribution is extremely interesting and valuable, particularly when you speak from your own experience, but do you agree that it is practically impossible to have personnel at very rural bus stations such as the one that I described earlier, which is in the middle of fields in the middle of nowhere? That is just not practical, so we must have something else in rural stations.

Speak through the chair, please, Ms Grahame.

Pam Duncan-Glancy

The member highlights the incredibly important point that transport in rural areas, including for women and disabled people, needs particular attention. Given that we are asking women to use public transport in such areas, we need to address the issue that has been highlighted, although we also need to look at the specificity of what we do in very remote areas.

The issue is particularly worrying for disabled women who require assistance at train stations and platforms, including in some remote areas. If staff are not available, we either have to go without essential help or rely on a stranger. CCTV is helpful, but there really is no substitute for a human being when it comes to making women feel safe. Closing the offices makes no sense in relation to safety, service or jobs. It is simply a result of cuts and could leave women having to spend money on taxis instead.

Taxis, particularly black cabs, provide a safe travel option for women, especially at night. They will be key to Glasgow City Council delivering on its unanimous support for Unite’s “Get me home safely” campaign. In the absence of accessible subways, trains or buses, black cabs are often the only truly accessible form of transport for wheelchair users. However, those cabs are under threat, too. We are set to see hundreds of black cabs leave our streets in Glasgow if drivers do not receive support from the city council or the Government to meet the requirements of the low-emission zone. The grants that are offered are insufficient. There is a significant back order for new taxis and there are supply-chain issues when it comes to second-hand cabs so, even if taxi drivers could find the money, they cannot meet the deadline.

Cab drivers are asking for more time to meet low-emission zone demands. Other authorities across Scotland, such as in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, have extended deadlines to 2024. In fact, Glasgow is the only council in Scotland that is still pushing ahead with the June 2023 deadline. That is, not least, a matter of jobs, but it is also a matter of equality and women’s safety. I therefore once again call on the Government to do everything in its power to encourage Glasgow City Council to extend the deadline to protect Glasgow’s black-cab trade and, in turn, women and disabled people. A failure to do so will leave women and disabled people, including those working in hospitality, without a vital form of safe and accessible public transport.

Finally, we must also ensure that our streets are safe. In November 2021, Radio Clyde launched its light the way campaign, calling for safety lighting to be installed in Glasgow’s parks. I was pleased when, late last year, Glasgow City Council confirmed that at least three of the city parks will have safety lighting installed. However, the council still needs to allocate cash for that, and it could be at least another year, or two years, before the work starts. Given the drastic cuts to transport in Glasgow and the anticipated loss of at least 100 black cabs from the city, more women than ever before might be left to walk home late at night. Glasgow City Council and the Government must prioritise installing safety lights in parks urgently. Women cannot afford to wait until 2025 for that.

The launch of research on women’s safety on public transport is welcome, but there is action that the Government can and must take right now, as I and others have outlined today. Of course, taking those actions in transport alone will not and must not be the end of the matter when it comes to women’s equality, but ensuring that women can enjoy public transport without fear is key to unlocking so much potential. We in this Parliament all agree that that potential must not be lost to inequality.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Joe FitzPatrick, who is the final speaker in the open debate. After that, we will move to closing speeches, and everybody who has participated in the debate should be in the chamber for those closing speeches.


Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee City West) (SNP)

I thank colleagues from across the chamber for their important contributions in what has been a constructive debate from start to finish. On the eve of international women’s day, it is crucial that Parliament debates the deeply concerning findings of the research.

The steps that the Scottish Government has taken to expand free bus travel to those under 22, and to nationalise ScotRail and, later this year, the Caledonian Sleeper service, should rightly be celebrated. However, it is essential that access to public transport is safe for everyone in Scotland.

Transport Scotland’s public attitudes survey showed that one third of women who took part

“were concerned about their personal safety”

on public transport, in comparison with one quarter of men, as we heard earlier from Jackie Dunbar. The survey showed that more women than men reported being “victims of harassment”, most commonly in the evening. That shows that the issue is about not just a feeling of being unsafe but actually being unsafe. We, as men, need to understand how that has an impact on how women feel in such circumstances. The survey showed that more women altered their travel choices as a result, which links in with some of the points that Pam Duncan-Glancy made just now.

One shocking statistic from the British Transport Police is that reports of sexual harassment and sexual offences on railways have increased by a staggering 63 per cent in comparison with pre-pandemic levels. In its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Scotland’s national transport strategy, Engender highlighted that

“BME women and women of certain faiths face both racialised and sexualised abuse, which can affect decisions around travel.”

That is simply not acceptable.

It is not acceptable that women and girls need to adapt or change their plans out of fear of harassment, and it is incumbent on everyone in the Parliament and the Government, and across public transport authorities, the police and other stakeholders, to better protect women and girls.

As we all know, most violence against women is committed by men. Although not all men are responsible for that behaviour, all men in society—as I said earlier—have a massive part to play in achieving our collective goal of advancing gender parity. Gender-based violence is a manifestation of toxic masculinity, the commodification of women, porn culture and an immoral set of attitudes, including a sense of sexual entitlement, that are still held by too many men in our society and around the world.

Other members, including Jackie Dunbar, mentioned Police Scotland’s “Don’t be that guy” campaign, which highlights the need for all men to talk openly to our male friends and relatives about behaviour that is damaging to women and puts men at risk of offending. We need to challenge unacceptable behaviours, language and attitudes in our workplace, at home, in the pub and—as we have heard—in our public transport system. I am glad that we are challenging that here today in Parliament. I repeat the call from Police Scotland: please don’t be that guy.

Siobhian Brown clearly highlighted why we, as men, need to go further and consider how our behaviour, even if it is innocent, might be perceived. She told us about a time when she, like many women, had to change her behaviour. As men, we need to take a little bit of time to try to put ourselves in the shoes of women like Siobhian in those circumstances, and think about how we, as men, could change our behaviour to remove the fear and make someone like her feel that little bit safer.

We need to understand that something that we, as men, might see as a signal that someone is not a threat might appear to a woman in such circumstances as a threat. A smile between two guys might seem to signal, “It’s fine—I’m okay,” but it might feel threatening to a woman in the same circumstances.

We need to think more carefully. For example, rather than expecting a woman to cross the road and get out of our way so that we can go on our way, maybe we need to cross the road so that we are not positioning ourselves as a threat. We, as guys, need to start having those conversations so that we can change our behaviour; even if we are not “that guy”, we can ask how we can do our bit to help make women feel safer.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s continued support for the third sector organisations that work to prevent and eradicate domestic abuse. The Scottish Government’s equally safe strategies were prioritised and produced in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Police Scotland, NHS Health Scotland and specialist violence against women support groups such as Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland.

The delivering equally safe fund is providing £19 million per year to support 121 projects from 112 organisations that focus on early intervention, prevention and support services. Many of the organisations run training and outreach programmes aiming to prevent violence against women and girls. They also offer one-to-one emotional and practical support, as well as refuge, legal or financial advice and other services.

As we look forward to international women’s day—a global celebration of women’s achievements—tomorrow, we must remember why it is still needed. It is needed to raise awareness of discrimination, to drive forward action on gender parity and to remember the daily struggles of women and girls.

I welcome the commitment in the motion

“to engage stakeholders in the Scottish transport sector in a summit, which will progress the recommendations from this report, to ensure that Scotland’s public transport is made safer for women and girls.”

I call on public transport operators, police authorities and other stakeholders to adopt the recommendations that are put forward in the report.

Everyone has the right to feel safe in Scotland’s transport system—everyone. It is time that we made that a reality.

We move to the closing speeches. I call Katy Clark. You have a generous seven minutes, Ms Clark.


Katy Clark (West Scotland) (Lab)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am pleased to close the debate for Scottish Labour and to get the opportunity to thank the minister for bringing this important issue to the chamber.

The commitment to carry out research was made last year in a Labour Opposition debate on booking-office closures, so we are disappointed that the trade unions were not approached to take part in the consultation. I very much hope that they will be directly involved in such initiatives in the future.

There is no doubt that this is an important issue and that there is an urgent need to ensure that women and girls feel safer on public transport and at stops and stations.

I am not here to defend the minister, but it is clear from the report that staff were spoken to. That perhaps addresses Katy Clark’s point about unions.

Katy Clark

I might expand on the point later in my contribution. As I said when I intervened on the minister, there have been previous consultations. As I said, the most recent work was agreed to as a result of the debate on booking office closures, and the railway unions were campaigning against those closures. The voices of trade unions and—as I am sure that the minister will agree—of women trade union members, in particular, need to be heard on these matters.

Jenny Gilruth

I will address the member’s point more substantively in my summing-up speech, but I want to say that the research will form part of a summit to which the trade unions will be invited. The point that I was making to Mr Bibby is that every single railway trade union is led by a man. I asked Mr Bibby whether the Labour Party had asked any female trade union members for their views—I am more than happy to hear them today. I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there is a gender imbalance in relation to the leadership of our railway unions.

Katy Clark

I fully accept what the minister is saying. Indeed, women have been elected to positions in some of the major trade unions recently, such as Sharon Graham, who is general secretary of Unite, which is one of the leading unions that I am sure the minister meets. I have met many women activists in railway unions in Scotland, and I hope that the minister has met them, too.

As I said, it is important to lay down that marker. Tinkering around at the edges will not address the scale of the issue. A number of members referred to the work that was carried out by the women’s charity Engender. Its research has found that bus services are currently seen as being incompatible with women’s working patterns and that women are particularly concerned about safety on train travel, as we heard from a number of members. We have also heard—from Pam Duncan-Glancy, in particular—that disabled women lack assistance and feel insecure when travelling and when at stations and on platforms.

I was pleased that Pam Duncan-Glancy and Maggie Chapman spoke about Unite’s “Get me home safely” campaign, which asks employers to provide workers with safe and free transport home after 11 pm and when there is no public transport available.

Women’s sense of insecurity and fear is a persistent theme. A number of members have referred to the survey by the Office for National Statistics, which suggests that nearly half of women in Britain feel unsafe using public transport alone after dark, compared with around one in five men. That is not surprising. A number of members, including Jackie Dunbar and Graham Simpson, spoke of statistics from the British Transport Police that show that there were 63 reports of sexual assault on ScotRail trains between 2017 and 2021. Those are appalling figures.

The minister spoke about female public transport staff, who deal with unacceptable levels of abuse and antisocial behaviour. As Carol Mochan has said, in a survey that it carried out last year, the RMT trade union found that more than 80 per cent of ScotRail women workers had been subjected to violent or antisocial behaviour at work in the past year. Given that the problem seems to be increasing, and given that it is already an aggravated offence to assault or abuse emergency services workers, will the minister confirm whether the Scottish Government will extend that legislation to cover public transport workers?

As has been said in powerful testimony by a number of members, these issues require a change in attitude and culture. However, that will not be enough to address the challenge immediately. There is a need for significant investment in staffing and infrastructure.

The Scottish Government’s report lacks concrete recommendations on how to combat attitudes among men that lead to gender-based antisocial behaviour and violence, and we must think about whether we should put so much focus on the responsibility of women. I do not disagree with any of the report’s recommendations or conclusions, but although raising awareness of the technologies—such as tracking apps—that are available to assist women and girls would be a welcome step, it would not address the problem. In addition, developing “credible” guidance for women and girls on what to do if they feel unsafe is not an unhelpful measure, but it will take us only so far.

The reason that I made an intervention on the minister about the survey that was undertaken in 2000 was to highlight the fact that these are not new issues and that we must not reinvent the wheel. That survey, which was carried out between July 1999 and May 2000, resulted in the development of guidance and a checklist to assist central and local government transport policy makers to ensure that a number of basic requirements would be built into the formulation and development of policy, including that issues affecting women should form part of mainstream consideration.

Jenny Gilruth

I accept, of course, that when Ms Boyack was transport minister, a body of work was undertaken on the issue of women’s safety on public transport. However, will Katy Clark accept that 23 years have passed in the interim, technology has moved on and behaviours that we see today either did not exist more than 20 years ago or manifested themselves in different ways? There was therefore a requirement for the Government to update our consultation to get a better understanding of the current landscape in Scotland. Does Katy Clark accept that point?

Katy Clark

I accept that point, but what I have been trying to get a better understanding of is whether the recommendations and guidance that were made back then have been implemented over the past two decades. We know, for example, that that work said clearly that surveillance and technology must be supported by “appropriate staffing” and that technology was “not a solution in itself”. Now, in this century, more than 200 rail stations—around 60 per cent of the total in Scotland—are unstaffed and, in the West Scotland region, which I represent, just a third of all rail stations are deemed to be fully accessible, based on Transport Scotland’s methodology.

The Scottish Government’s transport policy identifies that

“Many women and disabled people feel vulnerable when using public transport”.

We have had numerous contributions on how that has an impact. Despite that, the reality is that the Scottish Government’s proposals have been to cut back on services and staffing levels across the railways, and we know from our constituency experience about the cancellation of bus services. Today, the Scottish Government still refuses to rule out cuts to existing ticket office hours. I ask the minister to rule out staffing cuts before the national conversation starts. We need to invest in and expand our public transport systems.

Will the member give way?

I would be happy to do so, but I am probably running out of time.

It is to put on the record—

We have a bit of time in hand, but you must be brief, minister.

We have no plans to cut any staff numbers. I ask Labour Party members, including Ms Clark, not to mischaracterise any of the proposals as they are currently drafted.

Katy Clark

I am very grateful to the minister if she is ruling that out today.

As the minister has said, the harassment of women is a systemic problem and one that is particularly prevalent on public transport. We agree with that assessment. We think that that has been made clear across the chamber today; by women and girls in surveys; by women’s groups; and by workers and trade unions. However, we also think that the problem cannot be addressed without significant investment in staffing and infrastructure.

I commend the minister for raising the issue. I am pleased by the commitments that she has made today on staffing levels, on which there will undoubtedly be further discussion, and I commend her for commissioning the report.

I encourage all parties to agree to Scottish Labour’s amendment. By ensuring that our stations, carriages and platforms are accessible and well staffed, we will ensure that women and girls feel safe and comfortable in using public transport in Scotland.

I call Russell Findlay. You have a similarly generous eight minutes, Mr Findlay.


Russell Findlay (West Scotland) (Con)

Thank you. I am pleased to contribute to the debate as my party’s closing speaker, ahead of international women’s day, tomorrow. Be assured that my speech will not be as long as Graham Simpson’s blockbuster 11-minute opener.

Presiding Officer, last week I saw a new TV advert for ScotRail. I do not know whether you have seen it. It was all smiling passengers, cheery staff, beautiful scenery and blue skies. At one point, a departure board flashed on the screen, showing that every single train was on time. The advert was created by a trendy design studio. It looked like Scotland—but perhaps not the Scotland that I live in. It also looked like ScotRail—but perhaps not the ScotRail that I use. I am afraid that that wholesome TV advert bears little resemblance to what is experienced by women passengers every day.

Three months ago, I lodged a motion stating that

“all people should be able to travel on public transport without fear of harassment or violence”.

I am grateful to the members who supported it. It included the revelation that

“an estimated 75% of sex crimes on the railways go unreported”.

My motion also supported the British Transport Police’s

“Speak Up, Interrupt campaign, which aims to empower bystanders and witnesses to report incidents or safely intervene where they can.”

Some of today’s speakers, including Jackie Dunbar and Sharon Dowey, have rightly been critical of the fact that responsibility is too often put on women’s shoulders. Why should women alter their behaviour? Why should women be expected to police the inappropriate or criminal behaviour of men? The answer to both of those questions is, of course, that they should not. Men need to learn how to behave themselves. That point was made very well by both Jim Fairlie and Fulton MacGregor.

However, when men do not behave themselves, the criminal justice system needs to act quickly and decisively. In my view, robust policing and, as Carol Mochan put it, a zero tolerance approach should be paramount. That should apply on our streets and on public transport.

Last year, the minister appeared to be receptive to the idea of women-only train carriages. For practical reasons, I do not think that that is the answer. Practicalities aside, what signal would it send out—that we should all just accept that some men will target women on trains? I recently met the chief constable of the British Transport Police, Lucy D’Orsi, and I have absolutely no doubt that she fully understands that it is her officers who bear the responsibility for policing and that it is not the job of female passengers.

Although it is a fine line to tread, I think that encouraging public awareness, reporting and safe interventions has its place.

The minister’s motion mentions the new report that has been published by the Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland, and she also mentioned it in her speech. It is a weighty document that runs to 79 pages, and it echoes the sentiment about women and girls

“shouldering significant responsibility for adapting their behaviours to try to ‘be’ and to ‘feel’ safe when travelling on public transport”.

I agree with the minister about the report’s value and I thank all the contributors to it. However, I am left questioning some of what is not in it. The following four words do not feature once: arrest, prosecution, conviction, sentence. The report does not tell us how many crimes have been recorded on Scotland’s public transport network in recent years or the nature of those crimes. Of particular interest would be how many of them were sex offences, the majority of whose victims are women.

Crucially, the report also does not tell us how many crimes were prosecuted in court, how many cases resulted in a conviction or what sentences were imposed. There is nothing about non-court disposals such as formal warnings and fixed penalties. I believe that that data is crucial, as it could provide a meaningful picture to the public and MSPs.

Jenny Gilruth

The data that the member has requested is gathered by the British Transport Police; it is not gathered by the Scottish Government or Police Scotland. However, I have provided that data to the member’s colleague Tess White, and I would be more than happy to make it available to him.

Russell Findlay

It was not a criticism of the minister or, indeed, of the report. I was just pointing out the key importance of knowledge. I think that some of the data relating to prosecutions and outcomes is not British Transport Police data but Crown Office data.

As a member of the Criminal Justice Committee, I am familiar with hearing crime victims’ troubling accounts of the system. I am familiar with hearing about the disrespect, the delays and the lack of transparency. I am also weary—as are the other members of the committee, sometimes—of the battles that we have in trying to access some basic data. It is often difficult to establish a full and true picture, and the demise of news journalism in Scotland is not helping. Increasingly, what happens in our courts—good and bad—goes unreported and is therefore unseen by the public.

Occasionally, however, we still come across reports that invoke disbelief. Around 18 months ago, I read a deeply concerning report about a middle-aged man who committed a sex act on himself in front of a female train passenger. To my astonishment, a sheriff decided to remove this depraved sex criminal from the sex offenders register because the victim was aged over 18. I could not understand the thinking behind that.

Sharon Dowey spoke about some truly horrific cases that expose the personal toll on victims in a way that statistics never do. Such cases are shocking and harmful and we need to be told about them. They often expose the gulf between the justice system’s talk and its reality.

That Roz McCall no longer uses public transport partly because of her ordeals is a damning indictment.

I agree with Neil Bibby that, as men, we cannot really know how female passengers feel. He also raised an important gap in the data when he talked about our knowledge of the number of bus cancellations. I hope that the minister will heed his call on that.

Beatrice Wishart pointed out that, welcome as the new report is, there is not really much in the recommendations that is new.

Christine Grahame’s personal accounts were deeply troubling, and they confirm that little or nothing has changed over the years. Perhaps things have even got worse.

Pam Duncan-Glancy’s experience also illustrates the unpleasant reality of what is still occurring out there.

Preventative measures, stakeholder communication, big Government reports and public awareness campaigns all have their place. First and foremost, however, men need to behave and there must be confidence in justice. As Graham Simpson said, my party is pleased to support Jenny Gilruth’s motion and the Labour amendment. I hope that there is also consensus on his amendment.


Jenny Gilruth

I thank members for their valuable contributions to the debate. I thought that Labour and the Conservatives might have allowed a woman to open on behalf of their parties. That is not to suggest in any way that I am tiring of the dulcet tones of Graham Simpson and Neil Bibby, but I was pleased to hear Ms Clark closing for Labour, because it was Ms Clark who requested the debate many months ago. I thank her for that.

To make a serious point to male members today, every single female MSP in this chamber will either have personal experience of or have witnessed inappropriate behaviour by men on public transport. I was thinking during the debate about the first time that that happened to me, which was when I was 15. I cannot begin to explain how exhausting it is for women to have to continue to adapt our behaviour throughout our lives to accommodate men’s behaviour on public transport.

As I outlined in the report that was published today, there is a wealth of evidence internationally on women’s safety and public transport. Scotland is not unique in that respect, but what is rather unique is the historical data gap on the issue. I am pleased that we have been able to rectify that to some extent.

This debate lays the groundwork that is required for the systemic change that is needed. The research that has been carried out by the Scottish Government contributes to that. It also underlines that the issue of safety on public transport prevents women and girls in Scotland from realising their full potential. It is therefore really important that Parliament recognises that, particularly given that tomorrow is international women’s day.

I will move on to respond to some of the points that were raised in the debate. There were notable contributions from lots of members. First, I touch on the contribution from Mr Simpson, who highlighted his engagement with the British Transport Police. I know that colleagues across the chamber have been engaging with the BTP in recent weeks, which is welcome. The Conservative amendment highlights the Railway Guardian app, which I support, and the BTP text number, but I hope that members will acknowledge that the onus should not just be on women to report when behaviour such as we have discussed today occurs. As we heard from Joe FitzPatrick, the emphasis really needs to be on men changing their behaviour.

The report highlights that women do not always know how to report and, when they do, they do not have faith that doing so necessarily makes a difference. That needs to change, and I look forward to working with the British Transport Police and others to develop a campaign across our transport network that allows women a better opportunity to report inappropriate behaviour when it happens.

Graham Simpson

Member after member has raised the issue of a lack of data. We should not just be getting data from the police; we should be getting it from railway staff, too. What the minister has just said will be extremely useful if we are going to have an on-going campaign, because an on-going campaign is what we need. A debate such as this is fine, but it will probably get very little attention. We just need to keep it going to raise awareness.

Jenny Gilruth

I would not assume that a debate in our country’s national Parliament will not get attention, but it is important that we use this opportunity to give impetus to the work that has been carried out by Transport Scotland. The next step is the summit, and Mr Simpson’s point about data sharing is well made. We need data from all our transport providers to inform policy and make sure that it works better for women, because we know that it is not working at the moment.

Neil Bibby touched on the impact of men’s behaviour on women on public transport, and I agree with him that it is an issue of culture. He also gave examples from his constituent in relation to public transport. If he is able to share some details with me in confidence, I would be more than happy to look at that and see how it might inform our work going forward.

A few members touched on the alcohol ban. When we are discussing women’s safety on public transport, we need to be cognisant of the role that alcohol often plays in making women feel unsafe. I accept the point about enforcement, but that is addressed by the third recommendation, which talks about increased penalties. Fundamentally, the issue will be addressed through the national conversation. However, I point members to some of the experiences of the women who contributed to the report. One said:

““If you know someone’s drunk … it kind of throws in a wild card cos you don’t know what they’re going to do. And if they’re drunk and they attack you…how are you going to manage the situation ... the option there is just to get as far away from them as possible.”

That is why alcohol on public transport impacts on women’s safety. We all need to be cognisant of that.

Beatrice Wishart said that institutionalised gender imbalance must be addressed, which I very much agree with. She talked about having more women working in our transport sector, and I whole-heartedly agree. I cannot tell members how many meetings I attend as transport minister where I find that I am the only woman in the room. That is important because it affects policy and how organisations engage with more than half the population.

Beatrice Wishart also spoke about the importance of education, and again I fundamentally agree. As I said in my opening speech, I also support the bystander approach.

Jackie Dunbar spoke about the importance of transport providers, and I agree with that. Lothian Buses, Stagecoach and ScotRail engaged in our stakeholder workshop. For Ms Clark’s information, the Scottish Trades Union Congress also engaged in our scoping work on the consultation, which was published today. Jackie Dunbar also asked for Scottish Women’s Aid to be included in the planned summit and I am more than happy to ensure that that happens because it is a reasonable and important request.

Sharon Dowey raised some appalling examples of women’s experiences when things are not safe. As she noted, the overarching theme of the report is that women are scared. She is right. She is also right that men must change. I was struck that she also mentioned the importance of training. There is a need for a more collegiate approach across the transport sector to ensure that the necessary skills and experience are in place to tackle such behaviour when it occurs on our public transport networks.

Karen Adam talked about the experiences of someone called Sally who travelled on public transport in Scotland. No woman should feel that way simply because they are using the train or bus. It is really important that we learn from women’s experiences.

Similarly, Carol Mochan said that “men are born with an entitlement to roam”, which I found compelling. She also pointed out that women’s concerns about their safety are often diminished and that the focus is instead put on women’s behaviour. That critique was also levelled by Ms Clark in her closing speech, which I agreed with to some extent. Men are able to go on with their day-to-day activities and women have to deal with the consequences of men’s actions. We must urgently look at that, and I am committed to making that part of the work of the summit so that we can take it forward.

Maggie Chapman talked about how public transport is safer in many ways than travelling privately by car and rightly pointed out that it would be a tragedy if more women felt compelled to avoid public transport simply because they are scared to take the train or bus.

Christine Grahame shared powerful personal testimony about that feeling of not being believed or taken seriously, which permeated the results of the research. Depressingly, what she outlined is absolutely reflected in the research: it is true to say that women feel that they cannot report and that they do not believe that anything will happen if they do report. That must fundamentally change. It is linked to the need for better reporting systems, which was a key finding from the research.

Roz McCall spoke about her experience of travelling by train and about how behaviour during her commute has forced her back into her car. That is unwelcome news. We must encourage more women to regularly use public transport. She spoke about her girls travelling home in a taxi after a night out and seeing the information displayed on the sign that all drivers have in their cars. I am happy to take that idea forward when we meet transport providers at the summit and to see whether we can give the public some greater transparency when they are travelling.

Jim Fairlie spoke about his daughter and adapting his behaviour, such as texting to check in with her as she boarded a train and at the other end of her journey. It strikes me that, throughout the debate, we have heard powerful personal destiny about the extent of the problem. We all know where it exists in our public transport system. Mr Fairlie is right: men are central to changing and improving women’s safety.

Siobhian Brown touched on the importance of the gap in the existing data, which Mr Simpson also spoke about a moment ago. There is underreporting of criminal and inappropriate behaviour. I hope that the research will start to plug that gap, but that will not be the end of the journey.

Neil Bibby

I have spoken to the minister before about the lack of data on bus service cancellations, which leave passengers, many of whom are women, stranded when buses do not turn up on time or do not turn up at all. We need to fully understand the extent of bus cancellations across Scotland. Will the minister commit to working with bus companies to find and publish that data?

Jenny Gilruth

I listened to Mr Bibby and I wrote to him in February on that very point. The traffic commissioner records all details of cancellations. I am not sure whether Mr Bibby is looking for something in addition to the information that is already published by the traffic commissioner. If he believes that there is something more that the Government can add—

Neil Bibby

The traffic commissioner talks about bus withdrawals—that is, withdrawals of whole services. The issue here is when buses are cancelled at short notice, leaving passengers stranded at bus stops. We need to understand how often that is happening daily.

I encourage members at the back of the chamber to desist from quiet chit chat.

Jenny Gilruth

Broadly, the member makes a fair point. I will certainly take it away as an action for the summit. I take the point about women’s safety potentially being impacted by short-notice cancellations. It is something that we need to guard against.

Pam Duncan-Glancy highlighted the way in which women adapt their behaviour to feel safe. That impacts on how and when we engage with public transport, but—crucially—it can also put women off travelling on public transport at all. She also shared more powerful testimony of her experiences of being followed home by a man, while travelling home on her own from a night in town. I found that really compelling. I also found the number of colleagues sharing such experiences of travelling on public transport and the impact that it has had on their behaviour deeply depressing.

The research published today highlights the lived experience of women and girls using and working on public transport in Scotland. The division between women who use public transport and women who work in public transport was well made in the report.

This is the first time that the Scottish Government has undertaken specific research on the issue. I thank everyone for the contributions that we received. The report will serve as a key document now and in the future. It is also important that we now move forward with the planned summit.

More needs to be done to challenge the accepted position that coping strategies and mitigating behaviour are just a part of life for women and girls when doing something as simple as catching a bus or a train. The collective voice on that has to be louder. I am pleased that the debate has largely been consensual on that point.

I welcome the recommendations set out in the report. They range from practical actions that we can take to improve the passenger experience for women and girls on the transport network to shifting attitudes and behaviours to foster a more fundamental change in what is considered acceptable behaviour towards women and girls. We have heard that in the reflections of members in relation to the bystander approach. As we heard from Joe FitzPatrick, the Police Scotland “Don’t be that guy” campaign has been an exemplar and I would be keen to take it forward at the summit in relation to tackling male behaviour on public transport and improving women’s experiences more generally.

Broader issues include the consideration of alcohol consumption on public transport and greater visibility of staff on board and at stations. Calling out inappropriate male behaviour is more challenging, but it is not something that we should shy away from.

The motion asks that operators, police authorities and other stakeholders adopt the recommendations made in the report and commits the Scottish Government to working with stakeholders to make Scotland’s public transport safer for women and girls.

Although the publication of the report signifies the conclusion of the research that we have undertaken, it is not the end of the road. As I mentioned in my opening speech, last Friday, I met members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to discuss what role they can play in taking the work forward. The SYP carried out its own research with young people across Scotland back in 2018, the findings of which echo our own research findings that safety on public transport is a greater concern for women and girls in comparison with men.

More of those conversations are needed. I have already tasked officials with developing plans for a summit on the issue. The summit will bring together stakeholders, members of the Scottish Parliament and, most importantly, women and girls whose experiences we are going to improve, to discuss how, collectively, we put into practice the recommendations from the research.

As noted, only through collective action and a co-ordinated approach can we tackle the problems and concerns that we have discussed today. It is not an issue for just the Scottish Government to resolve, but we can and will work towards creating the conditions for a vastly improved experience for women and girls on our transport network.

I close the debate by stating my commitment as transport minister to tackling the issue. I hope that I can count on support from members and garner cross-party consensus to develop actions in response to the recommendations in the report.

That concludes the debate on women and girls’ safety on public transport.