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Transport / Soft launch for young persons’ free bus travel scheme

Bus travel across Scotland is to become free for all young people aged 21 and under. Photo: Transport Scotland

HIGHLANDS and Islands Green MSP Ariane Burgess is urging young people to apply for the new free bus card which entitles anyone aged 21 and under to free bus travel across Scotland.

The scheme, a flagship policy of the Scottish Greens implemented as part of the party’s partnership government with the SNP, will go live on 31 January.

Given the current Covid-19 guidance which seeks to encourage reduced contact and mixing the new scheme, said to benefit almost one million young people in Scotland, will be launched without much fanfare.

However, Burgess said the new scheme would be of particular benefit to young key workers during Covid restrictions.

Locally the new scheme has generated some controversy as journeys on inter-island ferries are excluded.

People over 60 in Scotland have been entitled to free bus travel since 2004.

Burgess said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, bus services will be a crucial part of the green recovery while tackling the climate emergency, and this travel card will open up opportunities for young people and their families.

“I’m delighted this Green policy has gone from the drawing board to reality and despite the difficulties of Covid, essential travellers such as key workers should feel the benefit from day one.”

SNP transport minister Graeme Dey added: “The current phase of the pandemic means that we are encouraging people to stay at home as much as possible.

“But there are many essential reasons for children and young people to travel by bus and I am keen that they benefit from this scheme at the earliest opportunity.

“Therefore, we are asking that only those for whom bus travel is essential apply at this time. This will help to minimise pressure on local councils, also impacted by the pandemic, which will be processing applications and responding to queries.”

Research commissioned by government agency Transport Scotland in October 2021 revealed nationwide support for the roll out of free bus travel for the country’s young people – with almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of young Scots agreeing that access to public transport will play a central role in the fight against climate change.

The free bus travel scheme is now open for applications. More details of how to apply can be found here.