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Under 22s free bus travel: Fewer than a third issued with pass

Young woman with a bus approaching
The uptake of the Scottish Government's free bus pass scheme for under-22s is low in some areas including the north and the north east.

Fewer than a third of young people who are eligible for free bus travel across the north and north east have been issued with a pass.

The Scottish Government scheme launched at the end of January as a means of lowering young people’s carbon footprint by encouraging the use of public transport.

But new figures show that in some regions 80% of those eligible still do not have a card allowing them to use the scheme.

Here is an interactive breakdown of those who have received free travel passes as a proportion of those who are eligible, broken down by council area.

In Aberdeen, Shetland and Western Isles passes have been dispatched to around 30% of those eligible.

The number of young people in Aberdeen currently eligible for the free bus travel is 37,600, but only 11,305 have received their passes as of March 18.

The number is even lower in Aberdeenshire and Argyll & Bute.

In comparison, there has been a 45% successful uptake of the passes in Dundee.

Why are the numbers so low?

All those living in Scotland who are aged between 5 and 21 are eligible for a card giving free bus travel.

Children under 5 already travel for free on buses and don’t need a card.

However,  some have reported that it is difficult to apply for the scheme with many issues being sparked by the identification verification process.

A Young Scot National Entitlement Card card being used for free under 22s bus travel.

One reader told us they felt they had to ‘jump through hoops’ to make the application on behalf of their 14-year-old son.

“It’s a nightmare,” she said.

“It accepted the application, and then when I went online a wee bit later to track it I could see that it was rejected because the photo was not up to the standards.

“That’s probably why there are not that many applications – it’s a nightmare to do.”

What’s the government doing?

Transport Scotland said it is looking for ways to make the application process smoother.

A spokesman said: “We understand some parents and young people might have found the application process complex but we need to ensure that it complies with identity verification standards and to ensure the safety of children.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie promoting the scheme at COP26 in Glasgow last year.

“We are committed to continue working with delivery partners to develop the application process in light of feedback.

“The new mobile application ‘Transport Scot Pass Collect‘ lets people aged 16 to 21 — who already have a Young Scot National Entitlement Card (NEC) or non-Young Scot branded NEC — collect free bus travel onto their existing NEC card, without having to apply for a replacement card.”

You can read our guide on how to apply for the free bus travel for under 22s scheme here.

Have you experienced trouble applying? Let us know about your difficulties by emailing us at


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