The Rapsons Group was Scotland’s largest independent operator as well as a group of companies serving the Highlands & Islands based from its HQ at Seafield Road, Inverness trading as Rapsons Coaches, Highland Country Buses, Orkney & Causeway Coaches and also operated on long-distance Scottish Citylink/National Express contracts operating over 250 vehicles with approx. 400 employees along with depots in Inverness, Aviemore, Fort William, Portree, Wick, Thurso & Kirkwall. While regular bus services traded as Highland Country, longer distance, express and private contract work operate under the Rapson's name.
Rapsons were founded in 1945 but came further into business between the 1970s to 1980s. In August 1991, Highland Scottish was sold to a consortium made up of Rapsons Coaches that recently privatised Scottish Citylink, for £800k. In March 1993, ownership of Highland Scottish passed wholly to Rapsons and a more modern deep red and cream livery, with a dark red wedge and yellow coachlines, was introduced for the fleet The golden eagle emblem, once used by Highland Omnibuses, was reintroduced in a larger size toward the rear of the vehicle and the company traded simply as Highland. Highland Country buses adopted a starkly different livery to the traditional red by going for a two-tone blue livery, with a large St Andrew's Cross in the centre of its 'Highland Country' logo. However, in October 1995, the company was split in two, with Rapsons retaining the eastern services under Highland Bus & Coach Ltd, with the remainder passed to a new company, Highland Country Buses Ltd. Highland Scottish Omnibuses at that time ceased to exist as a whole concern and in October 1995, the company was split in two and Highland Country Buses was bought by National Express for £1.8m. The two companies continued to exist under separate ownership until August 1998 when Rapsons bought Highland Country Buses back from National Express for £4m – £2.2m. After a brief interval, the assets and services of Inverness Traction were purchased by the Stagecoach Group. Highland, perhaps aware it could not sustain competition against a national operator with a reputation for swift and successful competition, scaled down the level of service against the new operator. Soon after, Stagecoach would purchase the Inverness and Tain operations of Highland Scottish and become the dominant operator of Inverness area services. In 1999, Rapsons began to expand into Orkney of the Orkney Islands bus market with the acquisition of four separate bus companies on the islands, including the largest, James D. Peace & Shalder Coaches. As well as having operations on Orkney, Shalder Coaches was originally a Shetland operator as well meaning that Rapsons also expanded into Shetland beginning an operation trading as Shetland Coaches & Shalder Coaches with a depot based at Lower Scord, Scalloway. However, Rapsons pulled out of Shetland in 2003 after they lost all contracts when going for an increase in rates with most vehicles previously run by Shalder or purchased for Shetland passing onto Rapsons other depots after Rapsons shut down their Shetland operation. In June 2005, Orkney Coaches who is the Orcadian operation became part of Rapsons when the takeover was complete since expanding since 1999 and remained a separate subsidiary to Highland Country Buses.
In March 2006, Rapsons gave up most of their long-distance coach contracts with Scottish Citylink and National Express and later in the same year, Rapsons bus drivers threatened to strike before voting by a majority to accept an improved pay offer from their employers. About 200 workers with Rapsons came close to taking industrial action. In May 2007, there was a sub-investment in low-floor vehicles for a quality partnership between Rapsons and the Inverness council to upgrade bus services after winning HiTrans contracts. Around £500,000 was spent to cut the amount of harmful exhaust gasses emitted by its vehicles. Rapsons received a further £160,000 from the Highlands and Islands Strategic Transport Partnership (HiTrans) towards the £650,0000 cost of buying five new low-emission buses which owed to a fuel addidative. The Euro 4 buses feature floors low enough to allow wheelchair users to access the vehicles, making them fully compliant with the disability discrimination legislation as well as being 41 seaters to be the first to provide a seatbelt for every passenger. 5 of these were Wright Eclipse Urban bodied Volvo B7RLE and 3 were added to the firm’s fleet in Inverness with the other 2 on Orkney and the fleet that were replaced by them were transferred to Rapsons Lochaber & Skye depots.
In May 2008, Stagecoach were in talks with the possible sale of Rapsons and it was rumored for a while until on May 16, 2008, it was finally announced that the long anticipated purchase of Highland Country Buses (and Orkney Coaches Ltd) by Stagecoach Group had been finalised and that Stagecoach had consolidated its position in the north of Scotland and swelled Stagecoach's north of Scotland fleet to 370 vehicles, covering Britain from Cornwall to Orkney with the Seafield Road depot closing. The takeover was finally complete in 2009 and all operations are now part of the Stagecoach Group. There is now a very small handful of ex Rapson vehicles still left in livery in use although a number of these are now withdrawn & preserved vehicles meaning that some of the Rapson colours and logo are still on some of the fleet including these but the remaining ones have the Stagecoach logo at the front and the 'Rapson' logo on the side and both the Rapsons and Stagecoach logo on the rear known as Stagecoach Highlands's Pre-Livery.
In April 2011 the operations at Inverness & Easter Ross were transferred to the Highland Country operating licence from the Bluebird Buses license. In late 2011, the depot at Burnett Road closed and now operate from the former Rapsons Inverness depot at Seafield Road, Inverness which has now re-opened for Stagecoach Inverness.Stagecoach in Caithness is used for services around the Caithness area covering Thurso, Wick and John O'Groats.
Stagecoach in Inverness is used for services in and around the city of Inverness, Aviemore & Easter Ross area.
Stagecoach in Orkney is used for services in Orkney.
Stagecoach in Skye is used for services around Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh.
Stagecoach in Lochaber is used for services around Fort William and Lochaber.
Discover The Highlands & Islands is used for services for tourist attractions around most parts of the Highlands & Orkney.
JET Inverness-Ardersier- X10 Inverness-Nairn-Forres-Elgin-Aberdeen X97 Dunbeath-Wick-John O' Groats-Gills Bay X99 Inverness-Dornoch-Golspie-Brora-Helmsdale-Dunbeath-Thurso-Scrabster 11 Inverness-Ardersier-Inverness Airport-Nairn 22 Inverness-North-Kessock-Culbokie 24 Tain-Inver-Portmahomack 25 Inverness-Evanton-Alness-Invergordon-Tain 25A Dingwall-Evanton-Alness 25X Inverness-Alness-Invergordon-Tain-Dornoch 26 Inverness-North Kessock-Fortrose-Cromarty 27 Inverness-Conon Bridge-Dingwall-Strathpeffer-Contin 28 Inverness-Beauly-Muir of Ord-Conon Bridge-Dingwall 29 Tain-Fearn-Hilton-Balintore-Shandwick-TainAviemore (Myrtlefield Industrial Estate), (o/s Newtonmore)
Fort William (Ardgour Road, Caol)
Inverness (Seafield Road, formerly Burnett Road) (o/s Nairn)
Kirkwall, Orkney (Scott's Road, Hatston Industrial Estate), (o/s Stromness, Orkney, St. Margarets Hope)
Portree (Park Road) (o/s Kyle of Lochalsh)
Tain (Scotsburn Road)
Thurso (Janet Street) (o/s Wick)