Free bus travel regulations expected early in new year, minister vows
Regulations to allow free bus travel for young people will be introduced to Parliament early next year, the Transport Secretary has said.
The scheme will allow those under the age of 19 to travel for free, after a concession by the Scottish Government to the Green Party to ensure its budget would pass.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes had said in March that the scheme was likely to come into force in January, but Covid-19 has held up its implementation as Transport Scotland staff were redeployed.
Responding to a question from SNP MSP Bill Kidd, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Some of the work around the preparations around introducing concessionary travel for under-19s was paused earlier in the year due to staff in Transport Scotland having to be put towards dealing with Covid-19 issues.”
Mr Matheson said that work resumed in the summer and a consultation has been completed on the programme.
“Now that process is complete we are in the final stages of drafting regulations, which I hope to introduce to Parliament early in the new year with a view to introducing the new scheme later on in 2021.”
Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie issued a challenge to ministers in October, saying if the programme cannot be brought into force in the first months of 2021 then legislation should be passed to put a duty on the Scottish Government to introduce the scheme – and to expand it to include everyone under the age of 25.
The Transport Secretary said on Thursday that the Government is looking at ways to extend free travel to people under 26, including the costs and benefits of doing so.
The findings of the review will be published in the new year, Mr Matheson said.
Scottish Greens transport spokesman John Finnie said: “Free bus travel for under 19s will be a transformational policy, benefiting young people and their families, and I’m proud that it has come as a direct result of the Scottish Greens constructive approach.
“The climate emergency is the biggest threat facing humanity and it is fitting that our free bus travel for under-19s policy will come into effect in the year Scotland will welcome the world to Glasgow for the vital UN climate summit.
“Transport emissions have been rising in Scotland, playing a significant part in the Scottish Government’s recent failure to meet its greenhouse gas targets.
“Making public transport a practical option for young people is a huge first step but it’s vital that we don’t stop with under-19s.”