Tavish Scott suggests cuts to free bus travel

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has suggested free bus travel may have to be cut to plug a hole in university funding.

He said conditions for new entrants to the scheme, under which over-60s go free, could be changed as part of a review.

At the same time, Mr Scott said he backed free higher education in Scotland.

Scottish universities are facing an annual funding gap of £93m.

In a webcast interview for the BBC at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Perth, Mr Scott said he did not want to see a return in fees after they were scrapped by Holyrood.

In England, the Tory/Lib Dem coalition has backed plans to allow universities to raise student tuition fees as high as £9,000.

Mr Scott said the spending squeeze meant it was time for tough decisions, adding: "Do we continue to fund prescriptions, have free concessionary travel for everyone over 60, while at the same time cutting university education in Scotland?

"I don't think it's credible for me or frankly any other political leader to carry on doing everything as we always have."

'A good deal'

He went on: "We are going to have to make choices - so can we keep people who are currently, for example, on the concessionary charges scheme?

"For new people, for new applicants to that scheme, then there is an argument there about changing it.

"The bus companies get a heck of a good deal out of that."

Mr Scott did not specifically say which changes to the travel scheme he backed, but called for a review.

He said that might "free up some money in an area of expenditure we all are concerned about - making sure our universities remain internationally competitive and our students have the right kind of support".

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