The people of the Highlands & Islands must make sure they have their say on the future of the bus pass in Scotland, says Labour MSP Rhoda Grant.
Despite promising to protect the pass in their 2016 manifesto, the SNP Government has cut £9.5 million from the bus pass budget and are consulting on the future of the scheme. The First Minister and the Transport Minister have refused to rule out raising the qualifying age from 60 to 65.
There has been a decade of decline in bus services with:
- Bus passenger journey numbers down by 78 million
- Nearly 70 million vehicle kilometres stripped out of the bus network
- The number of bus routes registered with the Traffic Commissioner down by a fifth.
Even more services for all users could be put at risk if there is a reduction in the number of people using the bus pass or further cuts to the budget for concessionary travel.
Scottish Labour introduced concessionary travel for older people and disabled people in 2006 and 1.3 million people benefit from the free bus pass.The public have until the 17th of November to take part in the consultation and say "No" to bus pass cuts.
Rhoda Grant said: “The SNP has cut £9.5 million from the bus pass budget and now ministers are consulting on the future of the bus pass, refusing to rule out raising the qualifying age from 60 to 65.
“The SNP’s 2016 manifesto promised that the scheme would continue and said nothing about cutting it back. The Nationalists have no mandate for bus pass cuts.
“Spending on the bus pass represents a major investment in public transport. It prevents social isolation, supports people on low-incomes working up to retirement and helps to sustain bus services across Scotland.
“Cuts to the bus pass will hit bus services at a time when passenger numbers are already plummeting. Over the past ten years, the number of passenger journeys has declined by 78 million and a fifth of bus routes been scrapped. Under the SNP, there has been a decade of decline in bus services and enough is enough.
“Scottish Labour would protect the bus pass, invest in public transport and deliver a new system of bus regulation that puts passengers before profit.
“I would encourage all those who depend on bus services and value the bus pass to make their voice heard in the Scottish Government’s consultation.”
How to take part in the Concessionary Travel Consultation: