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Transport / Shetland MSYPs pass motion to extend free bus travel to inter-island ferries

The Bressay ferry Leirna. Photo: Shetland News

MEMBERS of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) Michaela Christie and John Fraser are calling on Transport Scotland to extend the free bus travel scheme for under 22s to include inter-island ferries.

The pair proposed a motion on the matter at the parliament’s sitting in Orkney on Sunday.

The motion was then passed on Monday.

Under 22s have been entitled to free bus journeys throughout Scotland with their Young Scot cards since last year.

Inter-island ferry travel is not included, despite many young islanders using them to commute for education, work, social and healthcare reasons.

The motion calls for Transport Scotland to “extend the Scottish Government’s concessionary travel discount for young people, facilitated through the Young Scot National Entitlement card, to include inter-island ferry travels”.

Christie and Fraser have described it as being “unfair” that they could hypothetically travel the length of the Scottish mainland from Thurso to Berwick upon Tweed for free, but have to pay for the seven minute journey across to Bressay.

Ferry costs vary throughout Scotland – the MSYPs highlighted that passengers who are under 18 pay 80p for a return and adults £2.80 in Shetland, whilst in Orkney under 18s are set back £2.82 and adults £5.64 per return.

One young person in their constituency told Christie and Fraser that they spend an average of £17.50 every week on ferries – over £900 a year.

As well as the financial impact, the pair say that being unable to access ferries can lead to young people feeling lonely and isolated.

Shetland’s MSYPs John Fraser and Michaela Christie in Orkney. Photo: Lewie Peterson

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“It isn’t our choice where we’re brought up,” said Christie in a video explaining the motion. “So why should we have to face discrimination because of it?”

An islands impact assessment was carried out ahead of the free bus travel scheme launching last year.

“The Scottish Government recognises that ferry and air travel are island specific issues, but does not agree that ferry or air travel should be included in the Young Persons Free Bus Scheme, which applies to bus travel only, and which has encouraging sustainable transport use at its heart,” the assessment ruled.

“It is also important to note the ways in which funding of bus, air and ferry travel differ and that this has implications in considering whether they should form part of the free bus travel scheme.”

It added that the “great majority of ferry services are in public hands and paid for by the public purse and would not readily fit into the current concessionary travel scheme or the new Young Persons Scheme”.

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