Under 18s to get free bus travel in Scotland after ministers reach budget deal with Scottish Greens
Young people aged 18 and under are set to get free bus travel in Scotland, after the Scottish Government reached a deal with the Scottish Greens to pass its budget.
With the stage one debate on the Scottish Government’s budget taking place tomorrow, the Scottish Greens agreed to back Scottish Government spending plans on the condition ministers provide up to £80m a year for young people across Scotland to get free bus travel from 2021.
Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Free bus travel for young people is a transformational step towards tackling the climate emergency. This scheme will benefit young people starting college and families, some of whom stand to save thousands of pounds a year, and encourage whole generations of public transport users.
“Buses are the backbone of local public transport and the key to employment and training opportunities for so many of those starting out in life.”
Confirming a last-minute deal had been reached, finance secretary Kate Forbes said the final agreement would bring increased support for young people, police, climate action and local government.
The revised deal is expected to bring £45m for a package of investments in low carbon projects, and £60m for the police service along with £13m of funding for frontline services and £5m in extra capital investment.
Ministers are expected to unveil an extra £95m in funding for local government.
Forbes said: “I am pleased to have reached an agreement to pass the Scottish budget and deliver certainty for communities, businesses and our vital public services – especially in face of the uncertainty created by the UK Government’s decision to delay its budget.
“I want to thank all parties for the constructive way in which they have approached this year’s discussions. While it is not possible to meet every party’s demands in full, I believe in reaching formal agreement with the Green Party, I am also delivering on key asks from every party and I encourage all MSPs to consider giving their support to Scotland’s budget.”
She added: “When I presented the budget I said that every penny had been spent and that remains the case. In the absence of proposals to change spending, this additional investment will be funded through limited amounts of underspend, taking a multi-year approach to issues around non-domestic rates without impacting on local authority revenues, and additional consequentials from the fossil fuel levy. While this increases the financial exposure of the government it ensures that social security payments can be made and public services properly funded.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Just like last year and the year before the Greens have capitulated to the SNP Government, conceding their headline demands yet again.
“This budget leaves the police with a shortfall of tens of millions of pounds and the hard-pressed service with real problems.
“Local government capital is cut by £117m from its need. All this is to protect the budget for an independence referendum that no one thinks is actually going to happen this year. Yet the Green Party and the SNP are still putting money aside for it. People will be baffled by those priorities.”