This consultation seeks views on the impact on island communities of the introduction of free bus travel throughout Scotland for those under age 22.
Why we are consulting
We consulted on free bus travel throughout Scotland for under 19s at the end of 2020. A number of responses raised issues around the impacts of the scheme on island communities. We committed to carry out an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) for the scheme before its introduction. This further consultation seeks views to help us gather evidence to inform the ICIA that we are now undertaking.
This evidence gathering exercise will run from Monday 24 May to Monday 21 June 2021.
Free bus travel for under 22s
In March 2021 the Scottish Parliament passed legislation giving the Scottish Ministers the powers to establish a national concessionary travel scheme for free bus travel for residents of Scotland aged under 19 (the Young Persons Scheme). Following consultation on the Young Persons Scheme, Transport Scotland committed to carry out an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) prior to it becoming operational. Further to this, on 8 March 2021 the Scottish Government announced that it would extend free bus travel under the new Young Persons Scheme to all young people under the age of 22.
The Young Persons Scheme
The existing National Concessionary Travel Scheme for Young People was introduced in January 2007 and provides all 16-18 year olds as well as full-time volunteers up to age 25 who are resident in Scotland with one third off the adult single bus fare. In addition, 16-18 year olds who are resident on Scottish islands receive 4 free ferry journeys to the mainland per year. Ferry concessions are also available to residents of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland under the National Concessionary Travel Scheme for Older and Disabled Persons.
Regulations for the under 19s scheme were laid in Parliament in January 2021 and came into force on 1 April 2021, providing the Scottish Ministers with powers to put in place a concessionary travel scheme for younger people. Further regulations will be required to extend provision of free bus travel to 19-21 year olds.
The introduction of the new statutory Young Persons Scheme will extend the bus concession in the existing National Concessionary Travel Scheme for Young People in two important ways. It will replace the one-third discount with free bus travel on local and long distance scheduled bus services in Scotland. It will also extend eligibility for the scheme to all young people resident in Scotland aged under 19, and, subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary amending legislation, to all young people aged under 22. The legislation that has been approved by the Scottish Parliament does not make any changes to the rail and ferry elements of the existing National Concessionary Travel Scheme for Young People, which would continue on a non statutory basis.
Work is ongoing with delivery partners, including the Improvement Service (the accountable body for the National Entitlement Card), the National Entitlement Card Programme Office (who will manage the scheme), Local Authorities (who administer applications and the cardholder management process) and bus operators to allow free bus travel for under 19s to be delivered as soon as practicable in this financial year and to make as much progress as possible during 2021-22 to deliver this further extension to free bus travel.
A stated aim of the provision of free bus travel for younger people is to encourage a greater, long term shift to more sustainable travel by embedding the use of public transport in people’s behaviour from an early age. It will also increase young peoples' independence and help young people access education, employment and leisure, particularly for low income families.
What we know already about free travel and island communities
We carried out a consultation on the Young Persons Scheme between 26 October and 6 December 2020, attracting 3073 responses. Respondents were strongly in favour of the provision of free bus travel. However, a number raised concerns about its application to island communities.
Some respondents felt that young people living in island communities could be disadvantaged because they had to use ferries and not just road transport to access opportunities. Some respondents considered that free ferry travel was essential to ensure parity between island dwelling young people and their mainland peers. Others said that inter-Island ferry travel should be treated in the same way as bus travel is on the mainland. In addition, many respondents from rural mainland and island communities pointed out that free bus travel was of benefit only where there was sufficient provision of bus services.
Analysis of the consultation responses has been published on the Transport Scotland website here. The information we have gathered from consultation respondents, including the points raised above, will be used to develop and complete the ICIA.
We are now seeking your views on whether you consider there may be any other significantly different impacts on island communities that we have not reflected above, and what measures might be considered to mitigate or improve the outcomes for island residentsin relation to the provision of free bus travel to under 22s specifically.
- Do you think that the provision of free bus travel to all young people aged under 22 will have an effect on island communities which is significantly different from the effect on other communities in Scotland?
- If so, are there measures that the Scottish Government might consider to mitigate any adverse effects on island communities in relation to the provision of free bus travel to under 22s specifically?
You can respond to the consultation online or, alternatively, by email to IslandsBusTravel@transport.gov.scot.