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Transport / Free bus fares for under 19s a ‘good start’ but more could benefit, says councillor

FREE bus travel in Scotland for under 19s would be a “good start” – but there are many more people who could benefit from free public transport, according to the chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee.

Councillor Ryan Thomson was commenting after the Scottish Government put plans for free bus travel for people aged under 19 out to consultation.

The government anticipates that legislation to underpin the scheme would be required to be laid in parliament in early 2021, with the free fares coming into effect later that year.

It says that “free bus travel will help under 19s access education, employment and leisure, particularly for low income families”.

There are hopes it could also increase young folk’s independence, while officials believe it could encourage a short to more sustainable travel.

Some 770,000 people living Scotland would be eligible for scheme, which was included in the last budget deal between the Scottish Greens and the government.

Children under five already receive free bus travel, while youngsters between five and 19 can travel by bus at a discount.

Thomson said “any form of assistance for those who need to travel would be a real step forward for your young folk here in Shetland”.

“Not just from a social, and economic perspective, but also from a green perspective, and we should be seen to be encouraging public transport wherever possible,” he said.

“Free bus travel for under 19s would be a good start, however there are many age and social demographics who would benefit enormously from not just free bus travel, but free public transport generally.

“I would encourage anyone with thoughts or views on this consultation to take part.”