Just 30% of young Scots have claimed a free bus pass, according to Scottish Labour figures.
Across Scotland, 949,000 people between the ages of five and 21 are eligible for a free bus pass as part of the Scottish Government’s flagship scheme. Despite this, only 282,328 young Scots have claimed their pass.
The free bus travel scheme was introduced in January and allows unlimited travel on local bus routes for under 22s in Scotland. However, the application process has been deemed too complicated and in need of streamlining.
Scottish Labour transport spokesperson, Neil Bibby, has branded the free bus pass rollout “a humiliation” for the SNP and Scottish Greens, who introduced the scheme as part of a budget deal.
Bibby said: “Free bus passes for young people should have been a good news story but these dire figures are a humiliation for the SNP and the Greens, who have spent years talking about this card but still failed miserably to deliver it.
“The botched scheme is a huge missed opportunity, which could have unlocked opportunities for children and young people, eased the cost-of-living crisis for families, and helped us tackle the climate emergency.”
The MSP has called on the Scottish Government to simplify the application process and coordinate applications with local schools: “It is time to finally deliver on this years-old promise so that no more children and young people miss out.”
However, a spokesperson for Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth argued that COVID-19 had impacted the initial rollout of the free bus pass scheme.
They said: “The Labour Party and Mr Bibby appear to have forgotten that in January of this year Scotland, like many other nations, was in the grip of the Omicron variant.
“Nevertheless, since the end of January, over six million journeys have been made and over 300,000 cards issued under the new scheme.”
According to Gilruth’s spokesperson, “a number of changes” have been made to the application process and “the transport minister has said that she will monitor the situation and is not ruling out making further changes to the scheme if that is what is needed.
“Extending free bus travel to all of Scotland’s children and young people under 22 is ultimately about making public transport more affordable, helping to improve access to education, leisure, and work while supporting them to travel sustainably.
“While Labour carp from the sidelines, the Scottish Government is supporting people through the cost-of-living crisis. We are determined to ensure all children and young people who benefit most from free bus travel don’t miss out.”
Featured Image Credit: First Bus / Paisley Daily Express