Price rises of up to 15% on buses across Scotland could lead to falling passenger numbers, campaigners have warned.

The soaring ticket prices have been introduced as the Scottish Government's Covid recovery funding ends.

However, the new First Minister Humza Yousaf pointed out concessions were still in place.

But residents in rural communities described the fare hikes as a fresh blow amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Bus firms said they had struggled since the lockdowns, with passenger numbers still lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Graeme Macfarlan, commercial director for First Bus in Scotland, said numbers were 90% of what they were before the global health crisis.

Not immune

He added: "We are not back to normal. Like many businesses, we are not immune to inflationary costs.

"In the last three, four years our own costs have gone up by over 25%.

"We have done the best we can to maintain our fare increases below a level that is lower than CPI (consumer price index) but also reflects the money that people have got in their pocket."

Transport Scotland said it provided up to £210million in emergency funding to support bus services during the pandemic.

But, more than three years on from the first national lockdown, the Scottish Government said it was facing "an extremely challenging financial landscape".

Asked about the price rises on Monday, the first minister said operators had received a "really comprehensive grant".

Concessionary travel

He told the BBC: "On top of that, of course, we have I would say quite a generous and very good package of concessionary travel for those who are under 22 and for older people and those with disabilities.

"We will continue to work with the bus industry, with bus operators so we can drive passenger numbers up because nobody wants to see an increase in ticket prices at this time."

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