Following consultation, the SNP Government is making preparations to extend free bus travel to all young people under the age of 19 who reside in Scotland.
Draft legislation has now been laid which, if approved by the Scottish Parliament, will enable arrangements to be put in place for the scheme to start operating as soon as practicable during the financial year 2021/22.
Extending free bus travel to approximately 770,000 young people will deliver on parliamentary budget agreements and was a commitment outlined in the 2020 Programme for Government. Once the scheme starts, young people under the age of 19 will join the third of Scotland’s population who already benefit from free bus travel.
The same legislation will also extend the existing National Concessionary Travel Scheme to eligible disabled children under the age of five, allowing free travel for a companion accompanying them.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson MSP said:
“By progressing our commitment to introduce free bus travel to young people under 19, the Scottish Government is strengthening its response to the climate emergency, supporting our green recovery and working to reduce inequalities.
“This is in keeping with our National Transport Strategy which aims to advance equality of opportunity and take action to protect our climate. With young people having been disproportionately impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s right that we begin preparing to build back better as restrictions ease over the coming year.
“Not only is this good news for young people, it’s good news for bus operators. They will see increased patronage from future generations, who will be able to freely discover the convenience of sustainable bus travel in accessing education, employment and for leisure.
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“Over a third of people already benefit from free bus travel in Scotland. The proposed extension of free bus travel to approximately 770,000 young people will deliver on the budget agreement, as reaffirmed in the Programme for Government in autumn.”
“In addition to embedding more sustainable travel behaviour at an earlier age, the SNP Government is offering this support to reduce barriers created by transport costs so that our young people can achieve their fullest potential.”
From 26 October to 07 December 2020, Transport Scotland publicly consulted on proposals to provide concessionary bus travel to people under age 19.
The proposals received a positive response, with 91% of respondents agreeing that it would contribute towards objectives to increase opportunities and reduce inequalities for children and young people.
Positive responses focussed on improved access to employment and education opportunities, removing cost of travel as an obstacle, especially for those in low (or no) income households.
Further information is available on the Transport Scotland website.