EDINBURGH’S bus drivers have been told they will not have to ask Muslim women to remove their veils after all.
A row broke out earlier this year in the wake of new guidelines issued to Lothian Buses staff as part of a crackdown on fare cheats.
Drivers said they had been told to tell women to lift their veils or produce photo ID if they wanted to use a bus pass.
The move sparked anger in some sections of the Muslim community, with at least one woman said to have walked off a bus.
But bus chiefs today insisted the new rules had been misunderstood and have issued fresh guidelines insisting that drivers should never ask for a veil to be removed. The firm has also worked with some of the city’s faith groups to produce a multilingual guide that explains the different options open to Edinburgh’s veiled women who want to use a bus pass.
Lothian Buses, managing director Ian Craig said today: “We felt that it was important to lay down clear and concise guidelines for both our staff and passengers.
“Since we issued the original guidelines to our drivers, we have worked closely with the trade union and inter-faith groups to fine-tune the procedure, making sure they know how to interact with our different passenger groups delicately and discreetly.”
The “clarified” guidelines state that veiled passengers can either show a passport or driving licence, or, of their own choice, lift the veil to prove it is their bus pass. Alternatively, they can pay the fare if they are not comfortable with either option.
Unions and faith groups today welcomed the leaflet explaining the new rules. Rubeela Umar, of the Pakeeza Women’s Group, a support group for Muslim women in Edinburgh, said: “We were asked to come along and get involved with the drawing up of the new leaflet.
“The idea that women would be asked to lift their veils on buses is not very nice, so it is good to have it finally sorted out.
“There are some Muslim women who are not comfortable about getting on buses because they maybe feel out of place, but I hope clearing up the situation about veils will make them less feel awkward.”
The new leaflet explains that Ridacard applications from veiled passengers can be handled by female staff in private if requested. Passengers have the choice of taking off their veil for photographs or presenting a passport-type approved photo of their own.
If a passenger chooses the latter option then they will still need to momentarily lift their veil so staff can verify it is the same person.
Rab Fraser, branch chairman of the Transport and General Workers Union, said: “We believe Lothian Buses have handled the whole issue with the best interests of our members and passengers.”
Victor Spence, general secretary of the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association, added: “It is a good idea to clear up any possible confusion with the leaflet.”