Local politicians have welcomed news that an under-threat bus service has been given a stay of execution.

McGill’s had previously planned to pull the number 52, which has 16 stops in Barrhead, on January 21.

The decision sparked a furious response from passengers and a petition launched last week opposing the move has already attracted more than 1,000 signatures.

Following a meeting this morning, however, the firm has agreed to delay the withdrawal until April 1 to allow further consideration to be given to the service's longer-term future.

The meeting with McGill’s CEO Ralph Roberts was organised by East Renfrewshire MP Kirsten Oswald and also attended by MSP Paul O'Kane, community activist Rena McGuire BEM, a representative from MSP Tom Arthur's office, Councillor Chris Lunday, and Councillor Angela Convery.

Ms Oswald recently lodged a petition at Westminster outlining local opposition and highlighted the issue on the floor of the House of Commons.

The SNP politician told the Barrhead News: “I welcome the decision by McGill’s for a stay of execution for the 52 Barrhead Circular bus route, pushing back the planned withdrawal date from January 21 until April 1.

“It is abundantly clear to me that residents have grave concerns about the withdrawal of this service which is of vital importance to locals who use it to access important amenities such as shops, schools, the library, GP practices, and other community services.

“McGill’s set out their reasons for the planned withdrawal, namely increased costs and decreased passenger numbers.

“I am glad there will now be a period for residents to fully set out their views and an opportunity to continue the conversation with McGill’s.

“I am very grateful to McGill's for their willingness to engage with me and others on this issue and for their openness to further community dialogue.

"I will continue to work with Barrhead residents and other elected representatives to ensure McGill’s are fully aware of the vital importance of this bus service.”

Mr O’Kane, meanwhile, said he is ready to push the Scottish Government to do their bit to keep the 52 circular going.

The Labour politician was told by McGill’s that they will explore how they can continue the 52 route in the short term but said that Scottish Government support would be “essential for the route to be available in the long term”.

He commented: “The meeting I had with McGill’s was a constructive one because there was a willingness to explore options of keeping the route going but I did note McGills’ warning that more Scottish Government funding will have to come for them to keep it running in the long term.

“It’s welcomed that the service is continuing until at least April, but that’s the bare minimum of what we want to see.

“I’m determined to push the Scottish Government all the way on improving funding for community bus services and have both written to the Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth and laid a series of parliamentary questions seeking answers to the funding challenge.

“We must do all we can to safeguard the route for the sake of people in Barrhead who rely on the 52 circular but also people relying on similar bus routes across West Scotland.

“More widely we need a serious debate about how we support bus services that serve communities and I will certainly discuss these issues further.

“I’ll keep engaging with McGill’s and I’ll certainly be asking the Scottish Government to come forward with a fair deal for local transport services in Barrhead.

“Scottish Labour want to see bus networks have better regulation and more public and cooperative ownership, which will make the bus a regular, affordable service for those who rely on it.”

Rena, who is the founder of Dunterlie Foodshare and has been an outspoken critic of the withdrawal since news of the decision emerged, said it was now a case of “use it or lose it” for residents.

“It was a great outcome to have a stay of execution, however, we still need to be sure we can maintain the service beyond April,” she added.

Ralph Roberts, CEO of McGill's Group, said: “I was pleased to meet with local political representatives and discuss the issues that exist regarding the 52 service. 

“Following those discussions, I approached McGill's owners Sandy and James Easdale regarding funding for an extension to prevent the 52 from ceasing operation this week. Thanks to their generosity, they have agreed to fund the shortfall in the revenue generated by the service for the next 10 weeks until April 1, 2023, allowing the service to keep operating until this time.

“This stay of execution will allow political representatives time to hold discussions with stakeholders such as SPT and the council and hopefully allow a public funding package to be agreed that will help the route continue to operate. McGill's will feed into those discussions where necessary as well. 

“We thank those who attended the meeting for their positive engagement. Our hope is that a long-term solution can be found to address the financial challenges that this route has and it is crucial that this 10 week extension is used effectively.”