Scotland to offer free bus travel to under 19s

Following a comprehensive consultation, the Scottish 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 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.

“The Scottish Government believes in our young people and in public transport. In addition to embedding more sustainable travel behaviour at an earlier age, we’re offering this support to reduce barriers created by transport costs so that our young people can achieve their fullest potential.”

Transport Scotland publicly consulted on proposals to provide concessionary bus travel to people under age 19. This opened on 26 October 2020 and closed on 7 December 2020. A total of 3075 responses were received, 97% from individuals and 3% from organisations. Of the individual responses, 19% indicated they were young people under the age of 19, 55% indicated they were parents or carers of young people under the age of 19, and 14% indicated they work or volunteer with people under age 19 (for example as a teacher, educator or social worker).

The consultation sought views in response to nine questions spread across four themes: scheme objectives and eligibility; delivery options; assessing impact; and other considerations.

The proposals received a positive response. 91% of respondents agreed that the proposal 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.

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