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Scottish Government pushed to provide free ferry journeys for teens

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A call has been made for free ferry travel to be provided for under-19s on all Scottish ferries.

The proposal – made by the independent CalMac Community Board – comes after the Scottish Government announced plans to introduce free bus travel to those aged 18 and under.

Many believe ferry journeys are comparable to bus trips for island teens, and are now arguing they should have the same deal.

The Scottish Government did not rule a ferry scheme in or out last night – but the Greens said officials had been “receptive” in earlier talks.

MSP John Finnie said: “The proposals are something which the Scottish Greens are strongly supportive of.

“Indeed this is something which we raised with the Scottish Government who seemed receptive to the idea.”

A Western Islands Council spokesman added: “Ferries are the equivalent of buses on the mainland and it would be only right that island young people have the same travel opportunities as their counterparts on the mainland.”

The CalMac Community Board is petitioning Scottish Ministers to extend the free scheme to ferry travel ‘in the interest of fairness and equality for young people’.

They state: “We are supportive of the intention to encourage more young people to use public transport whilst opening up the opportunity for young people in all areas to have equality of access regardless of their geography or financial status.

“This brings into focus the position for young people for whom the ferry trip is their connecting bus trip, their way of accessing services, and we believe all young people of the same age should be afforded the same rights and opportunities for free travel.”

Island councils have also given the proposal a thumbs up.

A spokesman for Western Isles Council said: “This would be a very welcome move which would ensure that island under 19s are not discriminated against in travel.

“Ferries are the equivalent of buses on the mainland and it would be only right that Island young people have the same travel opportunities as their counterparts on the mainland.”

He said it would assist in retaining young people in the islands if they can travel more easily to sporting and cultural events on the mainland.

Ryan Thomson, chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s transport committee, said free travel would help 4,000 young Shetlanders to improve their opportunities to work, study and socialise.

He added: “In Shetland, both bus and ferry services are of equal importance to travel around our islands, and many consider the ferry service to be their ‘bus’.”

Shetland Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart added: “Ministers must recognise that, in island communities, ferries often perform the role that buses do elsewhere.”

The Scottish Government did not respond directly to the calls, but said some young people already resident in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles were entitled to qualify for a scheme allowing for two return/four single journeys a year between the islands and the mainland under certain criteria.

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