Labour claims elderly getting 'raw deal' as concessionary travel faces £10m cuts


Labour have claimed older people are getting a "raw deal" from the Scottish Government's draft budget as concessionary travel is in line for cuts of almost £10 million.

The party's transport spokesman Neil Bibby raised fears that fares for paying customers will rise and lifeline bus routes will be cut as the funds for subsidised and free travel for disabled and older people is reduced by £9.5 million next year.

The Scottish Government's budget document plans to cut concessionary travel cash from £207.8 million in 2016/17 to £198.3 million in 2017/18 but a Transport Scotland spokeswoman said the free bus pass scheme would continue "exactly as it does at present".

The document states the government will "constrain payments under the concessionary travel scheme for older and disabled people as a result of a negotiated settlement with the bus sector and develop options in consultation with stakeholders to safeguard the scheme's longer-term sustainability".

Mr Bibby said: "This budget is unravelling. Not only has Humza Yousaf failed to deliver a fare freeze for all rail passengers, we now learn that he's planning to raid the budget for concessionary bus travel for older people.

"Older people are getting a raw deal from the SNP's budget.

"Concessionary travel for older people was a proud achievement of the last Labour-led government, but now the SNP is slashing funding to support this.

"At a time when our elderly population is growing, this is the wrong decision by the Nationalist government. People will rightly be concerned that lifeline bus routes, particularly those in rural areas, will now be at risk and that working age passengers will face higher fares.

"It would be wrong for bus passengers to pay the price after SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf finally managed to find money to support rail passengers following months of inaction."

Mr Yousaf announced a free week of travel for ScotRail yearly and monthly season ticket holders as part of a £3 million fare reduction package thanking rail passengers for their "patience" in the face of disrupted services.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: "Free travel through the National Entitlement Card will continue exactly as it does at present on local or Scottish long distance buses for Scotland's older people and disabled people.

"The budget line reflects that fares and journey numbers have risen by less than expected in the last two years."