By Lucy Ashton
Jackie Baillie has told of her frustrations over the administration of the Scottish Government’s new travel pass scheme for young people.
The Dumbarton constituency MSP, pictured left, has been contacted by several constituents who have said that they have had problems applying for a National Entitlement Card (NEC) for their child.
One mother said her son was unable to properly complete the complex form because he was never issued with a Young Scot card due to the Covid pandemic and now has an out of date passport, again due to lack of travel because of restrictions. Both of these documents should have been able to be used for verifying his identification.
The woman advised that the same passport was recently used to open a bank account for her son, who is now in S2, but was not valid for the travel pass scheme.
Jackie Baillie said: “I completely understand the frustration felt by local people on this. It could be a great scheme with many benefits but the administration has been severely lacking.
“That coupled with the SNP Government’s unwillingness to encourage young people to apply raises concerns.
“It is a ridiculous state of affairs when someone has ID which is sufficient enough to open a bank account but not for a pass which allows them to board buses in Scotland for free.
“I would like to know what the government plans to do to address this problem and implement a system which is fit-for-purpose and properly allows young people to access public transport, helping to cut down on congestion and carbon emissions and enabling them to travel for work, training and leisure.”
Meanwhile, LibDem Liam McArthur, has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport about the “unnecessarily complex and confusing” application process to the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme.
Children and young people aged 5−21 years old will need a new or replacement National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot National Entitlement Card (Young Scot NEC) before hopping on board for free from Monday 31 January. Previously issued cards will not allow access to the scheme.
This has led to a number of constituents raising concerns with Mr McArthur about inaccessibility to the scheme as many children and young people do not hold proof of age identification.
Mr McArthur said: “While there has been great fanfare around the scheme opening to applications, it is increasingly clear that the process is far from straightforward.
“Many constituents have been in touch to highlight their experience of applying, with most struggling for hours to complete the process.
“The requirement for children as young as 5 to acquire new or replacement national entitlement cards, often leading to the need to acquire proof of age identification such as passports, seems entirely disproportionate.
“If the idea is to make bus travel as accessible as possible to young people, this seems to be a heavy-handed way of going about it.
“It’s also regrettable that Ministers have chosen to exclude ferry travel. Given that ferries function much like buses for many islanders, including ferry travel in this scheme would have been appropriate and provided more equal opportunities for young people.
“I have written to the Cabinet Secretary to raise these concerns on behalf of constituents and hope this will be taken into account in adapting the scheme.”