Weekly Poll – Free Bus Travel for Young People Under 19 (Week Beginning 16 November 2020)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 16 November 2020, we asked a question about free bus travel for young people Under 19, as a means to form a response to the Scottish Government consultation.


Do you think free bus travel for under 19s will help to increase opportunities and reduce inequalities for young people in Scotland?  

  • YES – 97% (205 respondents)
  • NO – 3% (6 respondents)


An overwhelming majority of respondents (97%) believed that free bus travel for under 19s will help to increase opportunities and reduce inequalities for young people in Scotland. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.


Many respondents recognised the benefits of the proposed travel scheme for low-income families and people living in poverty. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation state that during the period 2016-19, around a million people in Scotland were in poverty – 230,000 children, 640,000 working-age adults and 150,000 pensioners. Families with at least one disabled member are more likely than families without a disabled member to live in relative poverty after housing costs.

The National Transport Strategy sets out a vision for Scotland’s transport system over the next 20 years, which includes a key pledge to reduce inequalities. Within this priority, Transport Scotland commit to providing fair access to services, which are easy to use and affordable for all. The travel scheme has the potential to further this commitment by making bus travel free for young people.

“It will allow freedom of access to services and activities for those suffering poverty”

“This will help our household and benefit 2 of my kids making a big difference to our money available for other necessities.”

“The scheme will make such a difference to young people who earn less and to how far low-income families can make their money go.”

“This is a game changer, especially for some single parent families who have very limited incomes.”

“People will be able to live more of a life without worrying about the financial strain of getting about.”

Work and Education Opportunities

The proposed travel scheme will benefit younger people seeking employment, who have limited income to cover travel costs. In addition, respondents believed that the travel scheme will encourage young people to retain employment, as well as increased opportunities for education and training.  In 2019, the employment rate for the disabled population was 49%, which was significantly lower than the employment rate for non-disabled people (82%), representing a gap of 33%. The Scottish Government is committed to at least halving the disability employment gap in Scotland by 2038. Introducing free and accessible bus travel for young disabled people will help to meet this commitment.

“Access to work, for education, to have time with family and friends too.”

“It will make travel and job hunting more affordable.”

“The benefits speak for themselves as younger people are likely to have less money to pay for travel until they get work opportunities!”

“The scheme will help with retaining employment as it won’t cost so much to travel to and from work.”

Some respondents suggested that the travel scheme should not be limited to certain times of the day, as work patterns can vary, and it is important to ensure that young people have equal access to free bus travel.

“It needs to be a 24/7 concession as many jobs need people to travel during peak hours or for nightshifts at unsocial hours. Young people tend to work in these jobs.”

“Must be available during peak times too, to cover travelling to work or college or university.”

Climate Change

Encouraging people to use public transport can help the environment by easing congestion and reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. Another core priority of Scotland’s National Transport Strategy is to ‘take climate action’. Offering free bus travel for younger people will contribute to meeting this priority by reducing car travel through embedding the use of public transport in people’s behaviour from an early age.

“If we are serious about tackling climate change, we need free public transport for everyone.”

“Anything that reduces the use of cars being used by one person is worthwhile trying out. Apart from the effect on the climate, it would reduce the amount of accidents”

Rural Areas

People living in rural areas of the country are concerned by the frequency and reliability of bus services. Community transport providers play a vital role in delivering flexible door-to-door services for disabled people. This helps individuals to stay independent, participate in their communities and access vital public services and employment.

“Need a solution for rural areas where there are no or infrequent bus services as the alternative is forced car ownership which is unaffordable for most. Addressing this will help young people seek and get back into employment.”

“Something needs to be done to give young people free travel in rural areas where there is no service or very infrequent service.”

“There should also be concessionary/free travel on community transport as many rural areas of Scotland do not have a bus service to travel on!”

“Public transport is not always reliable and possibly things such as taxi vouchers could be in place if the bus is not available.”

Extend the Scheme

Many respondents suggested extending free bus travel to all ages. By doing so, this may help to further reduce inequalities for disabled people, who are more likely to be living in poverty. This may also encourage more people to stop using their cars, which has the potential to address the climate change commitment featured in the National Transport Strategy.

“Make it free for all and tackle climate change and congestion. I am confident a cost-benefit analysis would support this.”

“We should all get free public transport to reduce congestion and emissions. Recoup some of the cost through council tax.”

“It would be good if all bus travel were free and encourage people out of their cars.”

“Have a pilot that makes public transport free for all. Change behaviours, tackle climate change and congestion.”

“Increase it to 25 and I will get rid of my car.”


In conclusion, the vast majority of respondents believed the proposed free bus travel scheme will help to increase opportunities and reduce inequalities for young people in Scotland. The scheme will help to address the inequalities faced by families living in poverty by increasing access to work, education and training opportunities. More people using public transport will potentially result in less car use and the subsequent impact emissions have on the environment. Particular consideration is needed for young people living in rural communities, where there are less frequent bus services. Disabled people suggest extending the scheme to all ages, which may help to further Scottish Government priorities featured in the National Transport Strategy. When developing the scheme, it is essential to have meaningful and ongoing engagement with disabled people and Access Panels.

Disability Equality Scotland, November 2020