Free bus travel for the under-19s has moved one stop closer after the Transport Secretary introduced legislation to enable it at the Scottish Parliament.
The move will allow an estimated 770,000 young people to ride Scotland’s buses for free.
The proposal was a key demand of the Scottish Greens in order to secure their support for the SNP Government’s Budget last year.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Free bus travel for under-19s will be transformational, benefiting young people and their families, and I’m proud that it has come as a direct result of the Scottish Greens’ constructive approach.
“This policy will tackle inequality and the climate emergency.
“After the pandemic, concessionary travel will play a more important role than ever in the new normal so we are already pushing for the scheme to be widened further, with the aim of free public transport for all.”
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said young people have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus restrictions, and he claimed the policy will help the country “build back better” from the pandemic – a slogan previously used by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden.
“By progressing our commitment to introduce free bus travel to young people under 19, the Scottish Government is strengthening its response to the climate emergency, supporting our green recovery and working to reduce inequalities,” he said.
“Not only is this good news for young people, it’s good news for bus operators.
“They will see increased patronage from future generations, who will be able to freely discover the convenience of sustainable bus travel in accessing education, employment and for leisure.
“The Scottish Government believes in our young people and in public transport.
“In addition to embedding more sustainable travel behaviour at an earlier age, we’re offering this support to reduce barriers created by transport costs so that our young people can achieve their fullest potential.”
If the legislation is passed by MSPs, the policy will come into effect on an unspecified date after April 6 – the start of the new financial year.
The legislation will also extend the National Concessionary Travel Scheme to eligible disabled children under the age of five, allowing free travel for a companion accompanying them.