In 1986 the Thatcher government introduced the deregulation of bus services in England (except London), Scotland and Wales. Opinions differ about its consequences, both in terms of political ideology and in terms of effective transport provision. Suffice it to say that this reviewer can recall, in a previous life, sitting at a very large meeting in the then Department of Transport building in Marsham Street in London in the very early 1990s and pointing out that the plans being discussed for privatising the railways seemed imprudent and over-complicated given the complete chaos that had been wrought by bus deregulation. I was never going to change history (and I didn't) but it needed saying, especially to a largely London-based audience whose own buses had not been deregulated.
But anyway, let's wind back to 26 October 1986, the day on which deregulation came into effect. In Scotland there had previously been seven companies providing bus services, and this number increased to eleven. As the author says in his introduction: "Across the country competition for passengers was fierce with existing operators suddenly facing new rival operators. Congestion and bitter battles took place in most city centres." On the other hand, as he also says: "Bright new liveries soon appeared... in bold new styles... Marketing campaigns and new vehicles both big and small soon arrived... These were definitely very interesting times..."
"Scottish Buses During Deregulation" by Kenny Barclay documents those "interesting times" with a large number of rare or previously unpublished images. The book begins with an eight page introduction that sets deregulation in Scotland in context and gives an overview of the various companies involved. It then launches straight into the meat of the book, colour photographs of buses, set out two or three to a page and each with a detailed and informative caption running to several sentences. The photographs are nearly all from the front quarters of the vehicles, and most are of parked buses, allowing the best appreciation of their liveries (which certainly are very colourful in many cases). And who remembers that ex-London Transport Routemaster buses were such a common sight on Scotland's roads three decades ago?
This is a book aimed squarely at bus and transport enthusiasts, and it achieves what it sets out to do very well indeed. The photographs are excellent, and the captions provide detailed information about the individual vehicles and their operators. The end result nicely documents the Scottish effects of what I still believe was a politically-motivated and very silly idea: though not nearly as silly as the mind-bogglingly complicated and utterly dysfunctional way in which they later privatised the railways.