Free bus travel for under-19s delayed in Scotland

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland News

  • Published
Antonia Hynd with her daughters Elsa and Grace
Image caption,
Antonia Hynd said she would take her daughters Elsa and Grace on more buses if they were free

A free bus travel scheme for under-19s in Scotland has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish government initiative, which was part of the Green budget deal, was due to start in January 2021.

Although there is now no definite date, the Scottish government said the scheme would begin sometime in the next financial year, which starts in April.

However, the Scottish Greens have called for it to start by the end of the current financial year.

When it was announced back in February, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said free bus travel would be a "step change" in supporting young people and helping tackle climate change.

Ministers aimed to have the "national concessionary travel" system up and running by January 2021, with people aged 18 and under joining the over-60s in being eligible for free bus trips.

News of the delay has been met with disappointment, including from mother-of-three Antonia Hynd from Greenbank in Edinburgh.

She said: "We have been very excited about free bus travel because it means we could hop on and off the buses easily, so we are very disappointed it has been delayed.

"Currently I have to go into a shop to buy something so I have change for the children's bus fares."

She urged the Scottish government to start the scheme "as soon as possible as many families would really benefit from it".

'Easier life'

Martine Verheul, 46, who has lived in Edinburgh for 14 years, said she benefitted from a similar scheme in the Netherlands where she grew up.

"We used to be able to hop on and off buses, trams and trains because they were free to us. It made university life much easier," she said.

"It was a success in my experience and got us into the mindset of using public transport because it was free."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Work on implementing planned extensions to the national concessionary travel scheme was paused due to the impact of covid-19.

"We will consult with young people, local authorities, bus operators and other stakeholders to maximise the potential benefits of the scheme, which will begin as soon as practicable during financial year 2021-22."

He added that they were also preparing to extend the scheme to include companions of disabled children under five years old and people who received the young carer grant.