Overview

If you are over 60 or have a disability, you could be eligible for free bus travel to get around Scotland and your local area. All you have to do is a get a National Entitlement Card, your pass to free bus travel in Scotland.

How to apply

To apply for a Natonal Entitlement Card, contact your Local Authority or Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT). Depending on where you live, you can collect an application form from your Local Authority or SPT travel centre.

You will need:

  • a completed application form (not all local authorities require this, check with yours to confirm the process in your area)
  • a recent photograph
  • proof of age or disability
  • proof of your current address

Check the National Entitlement Card website for more information on proofs required.

Contact your local authority to apply

Objectives and benefits

The scheme provides free travel on registered local and long-distance bus services throughout Scotland, at any time of day for any number of journeys, for those aged 60 and over, as well as for eligible disabled people who live in Scotland.

Cardholders living in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles receive two free return ferry journeys each year to the Scottish mainland.

Over 1.2 million cardholders currently benefit from the Scotland-wide scheme. They made over 145m passenger journeys on local buses in Scotland in 2012-13, with an average benefit per cardholder at around £250 per year.

The key objectives of the concessionary travel scheme are to:

  • allow older and disabled people, improved access to services, facilities and social networks, promoting social inclusion
  • improve health by promoting a more active lifestyle for the elderly and disabled
  • remove the restrictions of the previous local off-peak concessionary fare scheme which was limited in offering access to facilities
  • promote a modal shift from private cars to public transport
  • maintain a viable position for bus operators with a standard reimbursement rate
  • provide opportunities for improvements to public transport, such as assisting development of multi-operator ticketing and the use of electronic ticket machine technology
  • facilitate a more effective administration of the system by adopting a standard reimbursement rate and shifting operational responsibility from local authorities to Transport Scotland
  • provide a stimulus to the introduction of smart ticketing

Where can I travel?

Almost everywhere in Scotland and as far as Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Your National Entitlement Card gives you free travel throughout Scotland on nearly all local registered and long-distance scheduled bus services. Only a few services, such as premium-fare night buses and City Sightseeing buses, do not accept the card.

So many of Scotland's major towns and cities are easily accessible with the National Entitlement Card. Use the Visit Scotland website to find out how you can reach some of the country's best attractions by bus.

Some local authorities offer other discounts on rail, tram or subway for their card-holders. Your card-issuing Local Authority can tell you more – a contact number can be found on the back of your card when you receive it.

Using your card

You can use your National Entitlement Card to get a ticket in advance or on the bus. Advance tickets must be collected in person.

When you get on the bus, look for the electronic ticket machine by the door to the driver's compartment. Place your card on the machine with your photograph facing up and tell the driver your stop. The driver will help you if you need assistance. If there isn't a ticket machine like this, just show the driver your card and tell him your stop.

Remember you can only use your most recently issued National Entitlement Card on the bus. Any other cards will not work and you will not be allowed free bus travel.

If the electronic ticket machine did not recognise your card it may have expired or be damaged. If this is the case, please contact your Local Authority immediately to arrange a new card. The card will be dispatched as soon as possible and should be received within 7 days.

If the card appears to be valid but does not work on the machine, the driver will give you the option to pay the full fare and keep your card or hand over your card in exchange for a seven day temporary pass. The temporary pass will be valid for free travel for you but the companion element will not be available. You should then contact your Local Authority immediately to request a new card. The card will be dispatched as soon as possible and should be received within 7 days.

Apply for your card

Contact your local authority to apply.

Eligibility

Over 60s eligibility

To be eligible for the NEC, you must be:

  • Aged 60 or older
  • A resident of Scotland

Disabled people eligibility

If you're a resident in Scotland, aged five or over and meet one of the following criteria, you're entitled to free bus travel with the National Entitlement Card:

  • You receive the higher rate of the mobility component or the higher or middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance, you receive Attendance Allowance or you receive Personal Independence Payment. Take along a copy of your award letter from the DWP confirming your eligibility. The letter must be dated within the last 12 months. For details on getting your letter, please contact the Disability benefits helpline.
  • You live in a care/residential home or hospital and are eligible for the higher or middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance, or Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance. You will need a letter from the hospital/care home confirming that you live there and receive 24 hour care
  • You are a Blue Badge holder. Take your Blue Badge, latest V11 vehicle licensing reminder from DVLA or DLA404 from the Department of Work and Pensions when you apply for your card.
  • You are profoundly or severely deaf. Take along a recent letter from your Audiologist, Hospital Consultant or Registered Society for the Deaf when you apply. The letter must show that you have bilateral hearing loss greater than or equal to 70dBHLs averaged over 1, 2 and 4KHz. If you have been deaf since birth, a letter from your GP confirming this is fine too.
  • You have a sight impairment. Bring your registration certificate that confirms you are severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted) when you apply for your card. A letter from the RNIB or other registered society is also acceptable.
  • You have been told not to drive based on medical grounds. Take the DVLA confirmation letter as evidence when you apply showing that your licence has been revoked or your application has been refused on medical grounds. If you have epilepsy and been told not to drive because you have had a seizure in the last 12 months, you should use the NCT003 certificate. The NCT003 certificate is only valid where the applicant is 16yrs and over (the earliest date they can apply for a provisional licence). Collect the certificate from your Local Authority and ask your Hospital Consultant, GP or Epilepsy Specialist Nurse to sign. For other medical conditions where you have been told you would not be allowed to drive and if you were to apply for a licence, would be refused, you may be able to provide a recent letter from your GP or Hospital Consultant depending on your circumstances to confirm this. For further information, please check with your local authority.
  • You have a mental health condition that is recognised under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and has lasted for more than a year. You must need to travel to health or social care appointments as part of treatment activities, care or a rehabilitation programme. Your ability to travel must also be impaired. Please contact your Local Authority for advice on how and where to apply.
  • If you have a learning disability and you need to travel to see a Support Worker or get to appointments or activities you will need to get a NCT002a form.
    Read our guide on how to apply
  • You have a terminal illness. Take your award notice that shows you receive higher or middle rate of Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance when you apply. A DS1500 report, hospice admittance letter or confirmation that you are registered on a Scottish hospice register is also acceptable.
  • You have a progressive degenerative condition. Conditions such as Parkinson's Disease that impede your mobility entitle you to free bus travel. Ask your hospital consultant to provide a letter confirming that your condition is considered ‘progressive degenerative' and that it severely impedes your mobility and ability to carry out day to day activities . Any letter from a medical professional must clearly state this.
  • You have lost one or more limbs. If you have lost one or both legs, both arms or an arm and a leg you are entitled to free bus travel. Request a letter from your prosthetic clinic/centre, physiotherapist or rehabilitation centre for your application.
  • You are an injured veteran with mobility problems. See the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme page for more details.
  • If you receive a War Pensioner Mobility Supplement you are also eligible. Please provide a letter from the Veterans Agency or Ministry of Defence in your application.

 

Apply for your card

Contact your local authority to apply.

Companions

The National Entitlement Card scheme also allows for free travel for companions when required.

Companions can make travel much easier, helping you to get on and off buses, carrying shopping and communicating with the driver. You can stay free and mobile, while making full use of your NEC.

Companions can travel for free with all NEC holders that have this logo on their card.

Companion travel logo

Your companion and journey can vary, but your companion can only travel for free when they are with you. You are not obliged to travel with a companion, but the entitlement is there for when you need it.

Eligibility

Your companion is entitled to travel for free if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You live in a care/residential home or hospital and are eligible for the higher or middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance, or Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance
  • You receive the higher or middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • You receive the standard or enhanced rate of daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
  • You receive Attendance Allowance
  • You are registered as severely sight impaired (blind)
  • You receive war pensions constant attendance allowance

If you receive Attendance Allowance, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance under the higher/middle rate of care or live in a care or residential home or hospital, you'll need a letter to confirm your eligibility. For details on getting your letter, please contact the disability benefits helpline.

If you are registered severely sight impaired (blind), please provide a copy of your registration certificate.

 

Apply for your card

Contact your local authority to apply.

Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

If you are a disabled veteran, you could qualify for free travel with a National Entitlement Card.

You will qualify if you have received a lump sum benefit under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme within tariff levels 1 - 8 (inclusive) and the Secretary of State certifies that you have a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking.

You will need to produce a certification letter from the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency. You will also qualify under the same criteria if your injuries do not hinder your mobility but the injury can be cross referenced to the descriptors within the AFCS Injuries Table as detailed below.

Amputations
Tariff Level Injury
1 Loss of both legs (above or below knee) and both arms (above or below elbow).
1 Loss of both eyes or sight in both eyes and loss of either both legs (above or below knee), or both arms (above or below elbow).
1 Total deafness and loss of either both legs or both arms.
2 Loss of both legs above knee (hip disarticulation or hemipelvectomy).
2 Loss of both arms above elbow (shoulder disarticulation or forequarter).
2 Loss of both legs above or below knee (not hip disarticulation or hemipelvectomy) and one arm (above or below elbow).
2 Loss of both arms above or below elbow (not shoulder disarticulation or forequarter) and one leg (above or below knee).
2 Loss of one arm, above or below elbow, and one leg, above or below knee, with total loss of use of another limb due to traumatic injury involving vital structures. *
3 Loss of both legs at or above knee (trans-femoral or knee disarticulation).
3 Loss of both arms at or above elbow (trans-humeral or elbow disarticulation).
3 Loss of one leg above knee (hip disarticulation or hemipelvectomy).
4 Loss of both legs below knee (trans-tibial).
4 Loss of both arms below elbow (trans-radial)
4 Loss of both hands (wrist disarticulation) or where amputation distal to that site has led to permanent total loss of use of both hands.
5 Loss of both feet at ankle or where amputation distal to that site has led to permanent total loss of use of both feet.
5 Loss of one leg at or above knee (trans-femoral or knee disarticulation).
Neurological disorders, including spinal cord, head or brain injuries
Tariff Level Injury
1 Spinal cord injury, at or above vertebra C3.
1 Brain injury with persistent vegetative state. (a)
1 Brain injury where epilepsy is present (or where there is high risk of epilepsy) and the claimant has reflex activity but has little or no meaningful response to the environment, no language, double incontinence and requires full-time skilled nursing care. (b)
2 Brain injury where epilepsy is present (or where there is a high risk of epilepsy) and full-time skilled nursing care is required, and the claimant has two of the following: reflex activity but little or no meaningful response to the environment, no language or double incontinence. (ab)
2 Spinal cord injury at vertebra C4, C5 or C6.
3 Brain injury where epilepsy is present (or where there is a high risk of epilepsy) where the claimant has limited response to environment; substantial physical and sensory problems; one or more of cognitive, personality or behavioural problems and requires regular skilled nursing care. (c)
4 Spinal cord injury at vertebra T2 to T6.
4 Uncontrolled post head injury epilepsy.
5 Spinal cord injury at vertebra T7 to T10.
6 Spinal cord injury at vertebra T11 to L1.
7 Spinal cord injury at vertebra below L1.
Senses
Tariff Level Injury
1 Total deafness and loss of both eyes, or total deafness and total blindness in both eyes, or total deafness and loss of one eye and total blindness in the other eye.
2 Loss of eyes.
2 Total blindness in both eyes.
2 Loss of one eye and total blindness in the other eye.
5 Loss of one eye and permanent damage to the other eye, where visual acuity is correctable to 6/36.
6 Total deafness in both ears.
6 Severe binocular visual field loss
8 Bilateral permanent hearing loss of more than 75dB averaged over 1, 2 and 3 kHz, with severe persistent tinnitus.

 

Getting and using your card

When you get your card

Please check that the photograph and personal details on your new card are correct. If any are not, or if this card is for someone who is no longer at the address, telephone the number on the back of the card to report this. If your new card replaces an existing card,  you need to start using it immediately and destroy any old cards you have as these will not work on the ticketing machines.

Using the card

Your card has been issued to give you free bus travel throughout Scotland under the concessionary travel scheme. In some areas your card may get you discounts on other modes of transport depending on where you live.  For information and advice on local non-bus concessions you should phone the number on the back of your card. It is possible to book in advance with your National Entitlement Card but you may incur a booking fee. Some bus operators may waive the fee, check before you book.

If you are looking to book a National Express service, you may have to pay the fare up front at the time of booking and claim a refund from their Customer Services Centre. Further information can be obtained from National Express.

This card has been issued to you and should only be used by the eligible person named on the card. It is for your safekeeping and it should not be given to anyone else. Transport Scotland has a fraud policy and any person(s) found to be misusing any aspect of the scheme may have their entitlement to free bus travel withdrawn and incidents of misuse may also be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Cardholders also have a duty to report any changes of circumstances which may affect their entitlement, including changes of address, to the local authority. Check the back of your card for the right number.

Full details of the NEC terms and conditions

Travel using a National Entitlement Card is subject to the normal regulations and conditions of carriage of each transport operator. Your card gives you the same rights as a full-fare paying passenger.

Travel outwith Scotland

Your National Entitlement Card is not valid for travel outwith Scotland, however, you can use it on services to and from Carlisle and on services to and from Berwick-upon-Tweed from anywhere in Scotland. Please note that your card is not valid for travel within these towns.

Lost, stolen and damaged cards

If your card is lost, stolen or damaged you should contact your Local Authority to request a replacement. This applies to all cardholders whether your card is issued on grounds of age or disability.

If you change address, phone the number on the back of your card to let your card issuer know. However, if you move to another Local Authority to live you must also let the new authority know.

For any questions please contact the number printed on the back of your card.

Renewing and replacing cards

Contact your Local Authority or Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) Travel Card Unit if:

  • your National Entitlement Card is lost, stolen or damaged
  • the card did not work when you used the ticket machine
  • you want to change your name, address or photo

Your National Entitlement Card may have an expiry date on the front. If you're 60 or over, your new card won’t have an expiry date on it and is valid for life, providing you continue to live in Scotland.

If you have a card on grounds of disability, it will have an expiry date - your Local Authority or SPT may be in touch 4-6 weeks before the card runs out. If you don't hear from them, or need assistance renewing your card, contact them directly.

Concessionary travel contacts

Contact your local authority about the Concessionary Travel Scheme for those aged 60 and over and disabled people. Your local authority can help you apply for the scheme, provide general information and tell you how to report lost or stolen cards and vouchers.

Local authority

Phone number

Aberdeen City 01224 346 834
Aberdeenshire 03456 081 208
Angus 03452 777 778
Argyll & Bute 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
City of Edinburgh 0131 200 2351
Clackmannanshire 01259 452 542
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles) 01851 822 708
Dumfries & Galloway 030 33 33 3000
Dundee City 01382 433 267
East Ayrshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
East Dunbartonshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
East Lothian 01620 827 367
East Renfrewshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
Falkirk 01324 503 605
Fife 0345 155 0066
Glasgow City 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
Highland 01349 886 604
Inverclyde 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
Midlothian 0131 561 5455
Moray 01343 563 200
North Ayrshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
North Lanarkshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
Orkney Islands 01856 873 535
Perth & Kinross 01738 475 000
Renfrewshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
Scottish Borders 0300 100 1800
Shetland Islands 01595 744 868
South Ayrshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
South Lanarkshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
Stirling 08452 777 000 (from landline) or 01786 404040 (from mobile)
West Dunbartonshire 0141 333 3211 (SPT)
West Lothian 01506 280 000

Local authorities within the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) are indicated above.

General enquiries

For general information on the concessionary travel scheme for those aged 60 and over and disabled people, or if there's anything you're not sure about, contact:

Concessionary Travel and Integrated Ticketing Unit
Transport Scotland
Tel: 0141 272 7170

Email: freebus@transport.gov.scot

Policy and legislation

Agreements with the bus industry

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands confirmed on 26 January 2017 that Transport Scotland and the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) have agreed terms setting budgets and reimbursement rates to operators under the Scotland-wide Free Bus Travel Scheme for Older and Disabled People for the coming year.

Building on agreements reached in 2013 and 2015, the new agreement ensures bus operators continue to be fairly reimbursed for carrying passengers under the scheme and safeguards free bus travel for older and eligible disabled people living in Scotland.

Similar to the 2013 agreement, changes are required to the legislation underpinning the scheme. Amended legislation detailing changes to the budget and reimbursement rates to operators will come into force on 1 April 2017.

Past agreements

2015 Agreement with the Bus Industry

2013 Agreement

Background to the scheme

The scheme began in 2004 when the Confederation of Passenger Transport and the Scottish Executive committed to an unrestricted scheme providing free bus travel for people living in Scotland aged 60 and over, as well as eligible disabled people. The process is documented in the agreement letter from the Scottish Executive and the response from the CPT.

In 2005, a public consultation exercise followed these initial agreements. The consultation asked questions that covered topics such as proposed eligibility criteria and technical aspects of the scheme.

Following on from the consultation and stakeholder discussions, the Scottish Executive prepared two Scottish Statutory Instruments that underpinned the terms of the scheme. Scottish Parliament then approved them and they came into force from 1 April 2006.

Changes to legislation for welfare reform

As part of the UK Government’s welfare benefit reforms Disability Living Allowance is being replaced by Personal Independence Payment. Receipt of certain components and rates of Disability Living Allowance are included in the eligibility criteria for the concessionary travel scheme.

To mitigate the effects of these reforms and ensure that eligible disabled people will continue to have access to the scheme, the Scottish Government extended the scheme’s eligibility criteria to include recipients of Personal Independence Payment. The changes to the eligibility criteria are set out in legislation which came into force on 8 April 2013 and are described below:

  • The extension of the eligibility criteria to include Personal Independence Payment will maintain access to concessionary travel for eligible disabled people in Scotland.
  • All recipients of Personal Independence Payment (or PIP) will be eligible for concessionary travel and all recipients of the Daily Living component of PIP will be eligible to receive a companion card (enabling a companion to travel free with them).
  • If when reassessed for PIP you find you are not eligible for that benefit, you will be able to continue using your concessionary travel card until its expiry date.

Passenger feedback

Following an Audit Scotland review in 2010, Transport Scotland commissioned research in 2012 to gather feedback and develop an understanding of the views of older and disabled people who are eligible and have applied to access the Scotland-wide Free Bus Travel scheme.

The research project, by Research Resource and ODS Consulting, took place over two years (2013-2014), with telephone surveys of over 3,000 representative NEC holders in each year to collect feedback, alongside a series of focus groups.

Card holders were asked about:

  • their use of the NEC in daily travel
  • the value they placed on the NEC
  • their views on misuse or abuse of the scheme
  • the difference the scheme made to their lives

The findings, documented below, are being used to inform and improve the scheme.

  • In 2014, 99% respondents stated that they were either very or fairly satisfied with the scheme overall. Satisfaction with bus travel generally was also high with over 9 in 10 respondents (93%) expressing satisfaction when travelling by bus.
  • There was also evidence that the Scheme is encouraging modal shift, with 41% stating that they use the car less. It is also encouraging some cardholders to walk more to and from bus stops.
  • 48% of respondents said they now make journeys that they would not previously have made.
  • For respondents with a Disabled or Visual Impairment card, the provision of independence was a key benefit. Younger participants in particular, felt that having the card gave them the opportunity to get out and about without relying on parents or carers for support.
  • The research confirms the Scotland-wide Free Bus Travel Scheme is greatly valued and works well for card holders for a number of reasons including financial savings, reducing isolation, engendering a sense of greater independence and increasing confidence in their own ability to travel.
  • The research highlights how cardholders perceive the scheme as having improved their mental and physical well-being.

For full feedback, you can read the reports below.

The findings from the year one research can be found on the Customer Feedback Research - Year One Report and from year two on the Customer Feedback Research - Year Two Report.

 

Apply for your card

Contact your local authority to apply.