THE past few weeks in politics up and down the country have been unpredictable to say the least. But in all the calamity, this week the Scottish Parliament brought in a long overdue change which will help keep children safer on their journey to and from school.

Shortly after becoming an MSP for my constituency of Aberdeenshire East in 2016, I put forward a Members Bill on an issue that months previously I already thought was the law. On Thursday last week the Seatbelts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill passed its final stage in the Chamber at Holyrood and as of 2018 all dedicated home-to-school transport and that use for school trips must have seatbelts fitted.

It’s the first Member's Bill to pass of the fifth parliament session.

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In Aberdeenshire, the local council have had a stipulation for all buses they contract to have seatbelts fitted. This has been in place for many years, despite the fact it was not then at the point of legal requirement. When I found out only certain councils stipulated seatbelts as a requirement for school pupils, I set about ensuring every parent in Scotland had the same peace of mind that I have when putting their kids to school.

Since we began working on the Bill, the number of local authorities who have made sure seatbelts are in place has gone up to 24 out of 32 council areas across Scotland. Just the passage of thisBill has seen movement in the provision.

Working on the Bill over the past 18 months has emphasised that the lack of seatbelts on school buses is something many of the public has been unaware of. Literally everyone I have spoken to about this has said they can’t believe it isn’t already law, yet the powers to get this through Parliament have only just come to Scotland.

Understanding and carrying out the work around the Bill has been a huge undertaking for both myself and the civil servants who have worked incredibly hard with me to help it pass.We’ve consulted with bus companies, local authorities, safety groups and many parents who have made vast contributions and made the Bill what it became in its final form.

So what happens next now the Bill has been passed?

The new law will come into effect next year for vehicles transporting school pupils and will apply to all road vehicles provided by local authorities, grant-aided schools or independent schools, such as buses, coaches, minibuses and taxis.

The Bill covers installation of seatbelts because laws which regulate the wearing of seatbelts are still reserved to Westminster. There is an EU directive that the UK could implement to ensure the belts are worn, but with Brexit looming that seems unlikely. I’m still going to lobby my MP to get something similar implemented, and I invite everyone else to do the same.

Throughout this Bill, I have always said, and strongly believe, that education from a very young age will also be key in helping children to enact and understand why wearing a seatbelt is so important.

It was important too that we pursued this Bill proactively and not after an incident where children and young people could have been protected.

Within the last five years leading up to the Bill, 42 children have been injured in school bus crashes. As far as I am concerned, that is 42 injuries too many.

Throughout this debate we have had important contributions from across the political spectrum and I would like to thank the members of the Rural Affairs and Connectivity Committee and my colleagues who added their thoughts to the process, a process that I think made the Bill better.

The Bill passed unanimously and I am told that’s a pretty rare occurrence.

If anyone was in any doubt about how important this legislation is, I must tell you what happened halfway through me writing this piece. I was called by BBC Radio Essex who asked me if I would give them an interview as a school bus had crashed injuring 10 children who didn’t have access to seatbelts. Thankfully the injuries were minor, but some noses were broken, there’s a couple of concussed kids, and all the kids who took that journey are shaken. And the parents rightly are asking for the UK Government to do what we’ve done up here in Scotland.

Gillian Martin is the SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East