Mike Rumbles MSP has accused the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister of withholding plans to change concessionary bus travel for the over 60s.
In a series of Parliamentary Questions tabled by the North East MSP, the Minister has been caught out paying lip service to an ‘informal’ consultation by announcing part of the proposed changes before the Local Election this May while at the same time waiting until the summer to announce any modifications to the age that the over 60s receive their pass.
The Minister outlined plans to include 35,000 apprentices in the scheme and protecting current pass-holders while at the same time holding an ‘informal’ consultation on whether the age threshold will be raised for the 70,000 people due to receive the pass, each year.
Commenting Mr Rumbles said:
“This type of manipulation of facts brings politics into disrepute and is precisely why people don’t trust the Scottish Government to deliver on their pre-election promises.
“The Minister has clearly set out his plans to protect current pass holders and include a new group of young apprentices. That is welcome but he has also said that we will have to wait until after the Local Elections to find out if people approaching 60 will miss out on free travel for several years.
“Scottish Liberal Democrat analysis has shown that if the Scottish Government were to opt raise the age at which people qualify for a bus pass to 65 then 350,000 fewer people would qualify. In return, SNP ministers would extend the scheme to around 35,000 people.
“This ‘informal’ consultation is not a consultation at all, it’s a disgrace. The Scottish Government should stop holding the public in contempt, come clean on their plans and announce categorically whether the minimum age for pass-holders will be raised this year.”
Notes for editors:
The below parliamentary questions indicate that between 31,500 and 33,500 would currently be eligible to free bus travel if the Scottish Government were to extend it to Modern Apprentices aged 16-20 and Job Grant recipients aged 16-24.
They also reveal that 70,000 people will turn 60 this year, rising to 76,000 by 2021. A conservative estimate would therefore be that if the age were raised to 65 then 350,000 fewer people would qualify on the basis of their age once the policy was fully implemented.
Mike Rumbles MSP Parliamentary Questions to Humza Yousaf MSP, answered on 6thFebruary 2017:
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government how many more people will become eligible for a free bus pass under the existing concessionary travel scheme on reaching 60 in each of the next five years
Humza Yousaf: The Scottish Government estimates that around 70,000 people will reach the age 60 and thus become eligible for a free bus pass under the existing concessionary travel scheme in 2017. This number is expected to rise in each subsequent year to around 76,000 people reaching the age of 60 in 2021.
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government how many people have a free bus pass under the national concessionary travel scheme.
Humza Yousaf: In December 2016 there were 1,310,803 cardholders under the National Concessionary Travel Scheme for Older and Disabled Persons.
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government on what date it will (a) launch the public consultation on future arrangements for the national concessionary travel scheme and (b) announce any proposed changes, and whether the public will be given an indication of its preferred model for the future prior to local elections in May 2017.
Humza Yousaf: Over the coming months, we will be engaging with stakeholders across Scotland to listen carefully to their views so that we may understand the social, equality and other impacts of possible changes that might be made to the scheme. This early period of engagement will lead to a more formal written consultation later in the year on ways in which we might help ensure the longer-term sustainability of concessionary travel. Following the consultation, the Scottish Government will publish an analysis of the responses in the usual way and indicate its intentions including the timing of any changes. We do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation process, though we can reconfirm that those already holding cards on the basis of the age will keep their bus passes and that there will be no reduction in eligibility for disabled people.
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government how many young (a) modern apprentices and (b) recipients of employment grants it anticipates will be supported by its plans to extend the concessionary travel scheme each year; whether each person in these categories will be automatically eligible for free travel, and in what year the scheme will be extended to these groups.
Humza Yousaf: The Scottish Government anticipates that around 25,000 Modern Apprentices aged 16-20 and between 6,500 and 8,500 Job Grant recipients aged 16-24 could be supported by its plans to provide free bus travel to these groups. We will be discussing the necessary processes with key stakeholders, including Skills Development Scotland, local authorities, Regional Transport Partnerships and bus operators, to ensure that the offer of free bus travel to young Modern Apprentices and, later on, to the young recipients of job grants, can be easily accessed. We are aiming to introduce free bus travel for Modern Apprentices in April 2018. Free travel for Job Grant recipients will come into force when the Job Grant itself becomes available.
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government whether it has any plans to make alterations to its concessionary travel scheme for people over 60 or who are in a disability scheme.
Humza Yousaf: In the coming months the Scottish Government will be consulting on ways in which to ensure the longer term sustainability of the National Concessionary Travel Scheme. Transport Scotland will be engaging initially with stakeholders to get their views, so that we understand the social, equality and other impacts of any potential changes. This will help inform a formal public consultation later in the year. People are living longer, staying healthy longer, and staying in work later in life. We want to ensure that our successful concessionary travel scheme continues to benefit those who have the greatest reliance on free bus travel. We do not plan to make any changes to the eligibility criteria for the scheme for those with a disability. We are also mindful of the need to safeguard the position of existing card holders and ensure that any changes will not affect those already in possession of bus passes.