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Lowland Scottish Omnibuses Ltd was a bus operator in south eastern Scotland and parts of northern England. The company was formed in 1985 and operated under the identities Lowland Scottish, Lowland and First Lowland / First SMT, until 1999 when the company's operations were combined with the operations of Midland Bluebird in a new company, First Edinburgh Ltd.



From its head office in Galashiels, Lowland Scottish operated throughout the Scottish Borders in south east Scotland and across the border into Northumberland in north east England, bounded by Edinburgh to the north, Peebles to the east and Berwick-upon-Tweed in the south.

Lowland operated for urban, interurban and rural services in and around Galashiels, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Dunbar, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso and North Berwick, with depots in these towns. Services also extended to Edinburgh and Carlisle, the latter through the Borders Rail Link bus service.


Lowland Scottish was created through reorganisation of the Scottish Bus Group in preparation for deregulation of the bus industry in 1986, and eventual privatisation. It inherited the southern operations of Scottish Motor Traction (SMT) (Eastern Scottish), which included all operations south of Edinburgh and across the border with England into Berwick-upon-Tweed. A livery similar to the green and cream SMT colours was introduced, using a brighter green and a more striking yellow, applied in the simple design as its predecessor.

Upon deregulation, Lowland initially faced no competition, thanks largely to a sparsely populated operating area. Town services within Berwick-upon-Tweed continued to be shared with recently-privatised Northumbria Motor Services, with Lowland and Northumbria having adjacent depot buildings fronting a shared bus station. This working relationship had been built up between the companies' predecessors, Scottish Omnibuses (SMT/Eastern Scottish) and United Automobile.

On deregulation, the relationship between Lowland and Northumbria in Berwick-upon-Tweed broke down, and fierce competition ensued between the two operators. The 'bus war' ended with Lowland pulling out of Berwick. Arriva, Northumbria's successor, withdrew from Berwick ten years later, leaving the town routes to small independent operator Perrymans.

Lowland became the first of the Scottish Bus Group subsidiaries to be privatised when in August 1990 the company's management and employees bought the company for £3.1m through their holding company Reiver Ventures Ltd. Lowland Scottish was a profitable unit within the Scottish Bus Group thanks largely to its near monopoly of the Borders market, though the operating area did not give much scope for expansion. In 1991 the bus and coach business of Ian Glass Coaches was acquired, with a depot in Haddington. The depot in Dunbar closed shortly afterwards, as the East Lothian area operations were concentrated on Haddington. Smaller takeovers were of Shanks ('Border Travel') of Galashiels in 1992 and Grieve's Taxis of Hawick in 1993.

Lowland quickly dropped the "Scottish" from its legal company name to become Lowland Omnibuses Ltd after privatisation. In November 1994, GRT Group (which later became First Group) bought Reiver Ventures for £2.4m. GRT had bought neighbouring Eastern Scottish (now trading as SMT once more) the previous month, and with its ownership of Midland Bluebird (the old Midland Scottish), GRT operated from Oban in the west coast to Stirling in the central belt, Edinburgh in the east and down to the border with England. Reorganisation of the three companies quickly followed, breaking SMT in two and merging the parts with Midland and Lowland. As a result, Lowland inherited SMT's Dalkeith and Musselburgh depots in 1996.

When the 'First' corporate style was introduced, the trading names First Lowland and First SMT were used, the latter being restricted to the former SMT operations around Edinburgh. A final round of reorganisation in 1999 saw Lowland Omnibuses absorbed into Midland Bluebird Ltd and a new company, First Edinburgh Ltd.

See also




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