First Scotland East has started a consultation with unions on the possibility of redundancies at the depots but has indicated it will offer affected workers posts elsewhere within the group where possible.
The operator said it had decided on the cuts after years of poor trading performance – blaming a "challenging" economic climate, high fuel prices and cuts in subsidies. However, the parent company is still making a substantial profit.
Profits before people
Last week, Aberdeen-based FirstGroup warned that margins at its UK bus division would be squeezed from 13% to 8% this year. The company said the north/south divide was widening "with considerably lower growth rates emerging in Scotland and the north of England". Poor economic conditions and cuts in government subsidies were blamed for the deterioration in trading.
Late last year, FirstGroup asked the Office of Fair Trading for permission to cut back on bus routes linking Glasgow city centre with destinations to its east.
Only 96 jobs remain
Sandy Smart, regional industrial organiser for the Unite union, said proposals to close the Dalkeith base had come as a surprise as cuts were expected to be spread across the firm’s entire operation.
Of the 287 First employees across its three Lothian depots – one base in North Berwick is unaffected by the plans – only 96 positions are likely to remain. To offset the scale of job losses, First depots in Livingston and Galashiels may take on some of the staff let go.
Villagers at risk of being marooned by the cull of bus services have vowed to defend the routes. Five communities are facing the threat of isolation from the public transport network if the plan is implemented. Campaigners from Ormiston and Pencaitland in East Lothian, as well as Midlothian counterparts in Cousland, Millerhill and Newton Village, have railed against the move and vowed to protest “all the way to Alex Salmond”.