Young people missing out on bus pass, despite £1m campaign
By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson for connectivity Beatrice Wishart MSP has today revealed that 300,000 young people are still missing out on bus passes despite the Scottish Government spending more than £1 million on a national marketing campaign to promote free bus travel for under 22s.
Answers to parliamentary questions submitted by Ms Wishart, left, show 639,795 young people had taken up the pass in January – 368,402 fewer than the total number of eligible young people. This is despite the Scottish Government spending £1,137,131 marketing the scheme.
Ms Wishart said: “Despite a major ad campaign to drive uptake, the figures remain well below what they should be. Well over 300,000 young people are still missing out.
“This is another striking example of the Scottish Government’s interest in fanfare rather than delivery. On the one hand it extended bus passes but with the other it took away support from bus operators already facing a post-pandemic lull, driver shortages and surging costs. The result will be fewer services for people to use.
“On top of this, the administrative hurdles involved in signing up for this scheme are needlessly convoluted.
“Throwing money at PR won’t work if the SNP and Greens can’t get the basics right.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats would put communities in charge of when and where buses go by adopting the Transport for London model. We would also expand the under-22 scheme to include internal ferries, a benefit for young people in the islands where ferries are used like buses. This would meaningfully empower communities with better infrastructure and ensure that services are both frequent and reliable.”
SNP transport minister Jenny Gilruth, below, said: “A national marketing campaign for the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme was launched in autumn 2022.
“This has helped to increase awareness and understanding of the scheme and encouraged more young people to apply.