Central SMT

SCOTTISH BUSES - A Colour Portfolio

Gavin Booth

First published April 2003, Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, £14.99

ISBN 0-7110-2951-2

This is a book about the 1980s, a time of political sea-change at home and around the world. New words entered the dictionary : Thatcherism, Reaganomics, deregulation, privatisation. Somebody called Sid advanced the cause of popular capitalism. Britain fought a war to keep the Falklands and entered into an agreement to give away Hong Kong. Unemployment soared, but so did house prices, and Middle Britain rose triumphant.

As far as Scottish buses are concerned, as the author himself says in his introduction, the 1980s must be regarded as a decade of two halves. In the first half, the old order still largely prevailed and the Scottish bus scene was instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with the previous two decades. Even the arrival of a brash new upstart called Stagecoach could not upset the essential sense of continuity. In 1985, the Scottish Bus Group reorganised itself, giving rise to bright new colour schemes, providing endless interest for enthusiasts and ensuring a continuing role for the paper sticker in the front windows of its buses. The second half of the decade was, of course, dominated by two of those new words : deregulation and privatisation. The streets of Glasgow became gridlocked with wall-to-wall buses, many of them crew-operated ex-London Routemasters.

One of the most striking aspects of this book is the very high quality of both the photography itself and the reproduction of the images on the printed page. It is a pleasure just to pick up the book and browse through the photographs, even before you get round to reading the captions. And in a sense that is one of the advantages of a book like this - you don't have to read it cover to cover. You can simply pick it up and enjoy it whenever you have a few minutes to spare and then put it down again, confident that its appeal will be just as fresh next time.

From a strict Central SMT viewpoint, the content is lighter than in Gavin's previous volume Glory Days : Scottish Bus Group. But that is only to be expected. This book is about the Scottish bus scene in its entirety and diversity, not just about the SBG. And the breadth of coverage is impressive. In a sense, the two cover pictures say it all : everything from a rural picture-postcard scene on the front to the unmistakeable new town architecture on the back cover. Complementing the impressive geographical coverage is a commendable variety of bus types, liveries and operations : everything from the rural Post Bus to the urban Atlantean, touring coach to deregulated minibus, McGill's bendy to Magicbus Megadekka.

I made it a total of 88 high quality colour images and, as far as I can see, they are all the author's own work. Gavin Booth does, of course, have an excellent track record as a transport author and this latest offering lives up to expectations. At £14.99, it is a worthy addition to any collection and is guaranteed to evoke memories of a colourful period of profound change in the Scottish bus industry.

Available from all good bookshops or direct from the publishers: 

Ian Allan Mail Order Dept,
4 Watling Drive, Hinckley, Leics, LE10 3EY
Tel: 01455 233747
Fax: 01455 233737
E-mail: midlandbooks<AT>compuserve.com (NB : please edit e-mail address!)

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