Bus pass scheme stays put

Worries that the bas pass scheme for people 60 and over was about to change have been quashed by the Scottish Government.
Worries that the bas pass scheme for people 60 and over was about to change have been quashed by the Scottish Government.

Borderers nearing 60 will have breathed a sigh of relief this week, following the Scottish Government confirming they’ll still get their bus pass.

The announcement by cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity Michael Matheson on August 2 flew in the face of prior speculation that either the goalposts would be moved or the scheme would be phased out.

In fact, the national concessionary travel scheme, as it’s known, will be extended to companions of eligible disabled children under five, which could result in over 3000 families and children additionally benefitting from the bus pass.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale SNP MSP Christine Grahame has welcomed the move, saying: “Particularly in rural areas the bus pass is a benefit which is a lifeline for many, enabling them to keep their independence, and I’m delighted that this government will expand the scheme to include companions of eligible disabled children aged under five as well as keeping the eligibility age at 60.

“At a time when we are investing and encouraging more people to use public transport, it’s right that we review the national concessionary travel scheme to make sure it best meets people’s needs and offers value for money.”

Mr Matheson also announced that the options to provide free bus travel for modern apprentices will continue to be considered.

The consultation on the scheme closed in November 2017, with nearly 3,000 responses received from people and organisations all across Scotland.

Two thirds of respondents felt that that the free bus pass should remain available from the age of 60.

A similar number of respondents felt that modern apprentices should also benefit from free bus travel, and an overwhelming number of respondents were in favour of providing companion cards for eligible disabled children aged under five.

Ms Grahame urged people to use public transport or risk losing some services.

She added: “It’s worth bearing in mind that a bus pass is an entitlement – if people choose not to use their bus pass, no money is paid out by the Scottish Government – but it’s there for those who do want to use it.

“Concessionary travel also helps bus companies by getting people onto buses, and for that they receive a payment, which is very important if the essential, but less profitable bus routes are to survive in the long term.”