First Scotland East

Last updated

First South East & Central Scotland
Falkirk for Stirling X38 bus in Edinburgh.jpg
Parent FirstGroup
Founded1997;26 years ago (1997)
Headquarters Larbert, Scotland, UK
Service area
Service typeBus and coach
Fleet257 (September 2022) [1]

First South East & Central Scotland, formerly known as First Scotland East, was an operator of both local and regional bus services in Clackmannanshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, Fife, Midlothian, North Lanarkshire, Scottish Borders, Stirling and West Lothian, as well as the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland. It was a subsidiary of FirstGroup, which operates bus, rail and tram services across the United Kingdom and Ireland.


First South East and Central Scotland was acquired by McGill's Bus Services in September 2022, with the operation rebranded to McGill's Scotland East. [2]


In 1997, the merger of three subsidiaries took place, with Eastern Scottish, Lowland Scottish and Midland Scottish becoming First Edinburgh, which broadly aligns with the original Scottish Motor Traction area. Following the merger; operations were simplified. Some areas, including Midlothian and West Lothian were formerly served by at least two out of the three subsidiaries. Despite the name, the company served a much larger area, covering much of Central Scotland and the Scottish Borders, as well as Cumbria and Northumberland, England. In 2008, the company was renamed First Scotland East – better reflecting the operating area.

In 1999, some operations were transferred to the company's Larbert depot, with a new corporate livery introduced across the fleet. By 2002, all of the company's operations were controlled by Larbert.

In 2000, the company was split into two, operating as First Edinburgh and First Midland Bluebird.

Fife First

In 1997, the company launched the Fife First brand, in order to compete with Stagecoach Fife – who had recently started competing with First's Glasgow operations. Competition took place, with service 56 (from Edinburgh to Dunfermline, Cowdenbeath and Ballingry), using vehicles transferred from Lowland Scottish, Midland Scottish and Rider York, and painted in allover red. A sub-depot was established in Dunfermline, with Westfield providing most of the vehicles used. Fife First ceased in July 2000, when the service was axed, and low-floor buses used were transferred to the Falkirk area.


In June 2004, the ScotRail franchise was awarded to First, with the services transferring to First ScotRail in October 2004. [3] The Competition Commission placed a number of controls and undertaking, which had an effect on the company's ability to raise fares, and alter a selected number of services. [4] [5] In 2009 and 2012, First were released from a number of routes which were controlled.


In June 2012, the company closed their depot in Dalkeith, whilst scaling back Musselburgh-based operations. In November 2012, the company's Linlithgow depot was closed, with operations transferred to Larbert and Livingston depots. [6] [7] [8]

In June 2013, route X38 (from Edinburgh to Falkirk and Stirling) was re-branded as First Bluebird, with buses painted in a dedicated blue livery. [9] Within a year, most of the buses operating in the Forth Valley area were also re-branded as First Bluebird.

First tried to improve passenger growth, with a number of revised networks in Falkirk and West Lothian, during 2012. [10] [11] In January 2015, First withdrew over a dozen bus routes in and around Falkirk, citing that routes had been operating at a "considerable loss" for many years. [12] [13] [14]

The company made a request to the Competition and Markets Authority in October 2015, about reviewing of the undertakings given in 2002 by First. The undertakings were given following the Monopolies & Mergers Commission's conclusion that the completed acquisition by First of SB Holdings Limited, which took place in 1996, created a merger situation which may be expected to operate against the public interest.

As part of the undertaking, the company had mileage floor which required to them to operate a specific number of miles, regardless of the circumstances. In April 2015, the company was released from the undertaking with all requirements dropped. [15] [16]

In May 2016, the company announced that it would cease operations in East Lothian, with the closure of Musselburgh and North Berwick depots – affecting a total of 88 jobs. [17] [18] In August 2016, staff and operations were transferred to Lothian Buses. [19] [lower-alpha 1]

In 2016, Perryman's Buses [lower-alpha 2] took over several services from First Scotland East. [20] The company's remaining operations in Scottish Borders, including the depot at Galashiels, as well as outstations at Hawick, Kelso and Peebles, were sold to the company in March 2017. [21] The (at the time) recent reopening of the Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank was cited as one of the main reasons for the sale.

In May 2017, the company announced plans to bring "significant improvements" to their services. This resulted in the introduction of 7,000 miles of additional journeys and six vehicles to the network in West Lothian, as well as the reintroduction of a direct link between Bathgate and Gyle Centre via Livingston and Edinburgh Airport. [22]

Acquisition by McGill's Bus Services

On 6 September 2022, it was announced that First Scotland East had been acquired by McGill's Bus Services. First Scotland East was rebranded McGill's Scotland East, also trading as McGill's Midland Bluebird and McGill's Eastern Scottish, and its four depots, 550 employees and 257 buses, as well as the Bright Bus Tours open top bus operation in Edinburgh, were all transferred under McGill's ownership. [2] [23]


Edinburgh Bus War

Between March 2000 and July 2002, First Scotland East sought to increase their market share of local bus services in and around the city of Edinburgh. As a result, a bus war sparked between FirstGroup and Lothian Buses, with fares cut, additional vehicles drafted in, routes diverted and timetables altered. [24]

Lothian Buses complained to the Office of Fair Trading, claiming that FirstGroup was engaging in anti-competitive behaviour, in an effort to become the dominant operator in Edinburgh. [25] However, it was later ruled by the Office of Fair Trading that FirstGroup's conduct represented "legitimate competition". [26]

Despite this, following the ruling, First Scotland East curtailed their network of services in Edinburgh, bringing an end to the bus war. Heavy losses were made, which resulted in cutbacks in many parts of their operations.

Public inquiries

First Scotland East had appeared before the Traffic Commissioner on five occasions. Public inquiries were held regarding vehicle maintenance (2004, 2005 & 2008) and timekeeping (2008 & 2010).

In November 2011, a formal warning was issued regarding vehicle maintenance. In August 2012, the company appeared for the fifth time in front of the Traffic Commissioner, due to further issues regarding services in and around Falkirk. [27] [28] [29] [30]

In November 2013, a further hearing took place in front of the Deputy Traffic Commissioner, following an incident in March that year in which a vehicle lost its wheel in Edinburgh. [31]

Fleet and operations


The company operated from four depots across the region: Balfron, Bannockburn, Larbert and Livingston.


As of the company's takeover in September 2022, the First Scotland East fleet consisted of 257 buses. [1] The fleet consisted mainly of diesel-powered single and double-deck buses manufactured by Alexander Dennis, Scania, Volvo and Wrightbus.


  1. Services in East Lothian are operated under the East Coast Buses brand.
  2. Perryman's Buses now operates as Borders Buses, following acquisition by West Coast Motors.

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  1. 1 2 Paterson, Kirsty (10 November 2022). "McGill's Buses: Nearly half of bus fleet taken off the road following takeover". Falkirk Herald. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  2. 1 2 Dalton, Alastair (6 September 2022). "McGill's Buses takes over First Scotland East in latest expansion". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  3. FirstGroup clinches Scottish rail franchise The Daily Telegraph 12 June 2004
  4. Watchdog agrees ScotRail merger BBC News 28 June 2004
  5. FirstGroup plc and the Scottish Passenger Rail franchise Competition Commission June 2004
  6. Bus depot moves out Linlithgow Gazette
  7. Changes to Services in the East Lothian and Mid Lothian Regions of Scotland FirstGroup 2 April 2012
  8. Changes to services after closure of First Dalkeith depot Midlothian Council
  9. First brings back the Bluebird name for East Scotland bus operation Archived 21 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine The Bus People 28 June 2013
  10. Upset on Falkirk buses after timetable changes Falkirk Herald 9 November 2012
  11. Forthcoming Network Alterations - Falkirk area - Monday 29 October 2012 FirstGroup
  12. "Three bus services to be withdrawn in West Lothian". BBC News. 18 November 2014.
  13. Falkirk bus services to end in new year Central 103.1 FM 17 November 2014
  14. Barber, Stuart (23 November 2014). "Big changes on Falkirk's buses as routes are cut" . Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  15. Notice of intention to release undertakings Competition & Markets Authority 15 March 2016
  16. FirstGroup undertakings review Competition & Markets Authority
  17. "Bus company First set to end ALL bus services in East Lothian this summer". East Lothian Courier. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  18. "First plans to cease operations in East Lothian". Routeone. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  19. "Lothian Buses saves First services". Routeone. 5 July 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  20. Knox, David (15 July 2016). "Perryman's set to take over threatened Borders bus routes". Border Telegraph. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  21. "Takeover deal secures future of Borders bus routes". The Southern Reporter. 3 April 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  22. O'Neil, Sean (25 April 2017). "New bus routes to be rolled out next month". Daily Record . Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  23. "McGill's to purchase First Scotland East operation". routeone. 7 September 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  24. "Bus firm hits back over 'fares war'". BBC News . 15 August 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  25. "Bus wars to be investigated". BBC News . 27 September 2001. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  26. "First Edinburgh/Lothian". Office of Fair Trading . CA98/05/2004. 9 June 2004. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  27. Falikirk bus bosses say sorry for failing Falkirk Herald 19 August 2012
  28. Decision of the Traffic Commissioner Against First Bus Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Traffic Commissioner 1 April 2008
  29. Tell us what's going on! Falkirk Herald 21 June 2007
  30. Buses in chaos Falkirk Herald 4 October 2007
  31. Dalton, Alastair (7 November 2013). "First faces Princes Street bus 'wheel loss' probe". The Scotsman . Retrieved 31 May 2022.