How to get a free bus pass for under-21s

YOUNG Scots are now entitled to travel free on the nation’s buses. The new scheme, which is the result of last year’s budget deal between the SNP and the Green party, means that they can apply for a new smart card that will facilitate free transport.

Hmm, if you’re the same age as me then you’re well past the age that it applies to us. But from now on anyone in Scotland between the ages of five and 21 are entitled to apply.

Ah, I’m a couple of years too old.

Of course you are. Anyway, to apply you need to have either a National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot National Entitlement Card (Young Scot NEC). And they need to be either new cards or replacement cards. Previously issued cards won’t work, I’m afraid.

Instructions for how to apply can be found on the Transport Scotland website.

So, how many people can benefit from this new scheme?

The scheme will potentially extend free bus travel to some 930,000 Scots. Added to the schemes for under-fives, older and disabled people that means that more than 2.3 million people in Scotland will be able to travel free on buses.

Who’s paying for this?

The government, so ultimately you are. A percentage of an adult single fare will be paid to the bus companies for every journey made by cardholders.

What’s the thinking behind it?

The Green Party see the move as an opportunity to reduce car use and support local bus services still recovering from the impact of Covid restrictions.

The new SNP Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth, who was appointed to the position last month, is hoping that the scheme will encourage young Scots to start to think about making sustainable travel choices.

How’s it going so far?

There have been some complaints about mixed messaging as a result of the government initially urging only those who need to travel for essential reasons to apply. There have also been complaints about the application system which some say is too complicated.

Transport Scotland has recognised that the process is complex but argue that safety and identity verification standards need to be met. They have said they will take on board feedback, however.

Do you think I could pass for under-22?

Possibly not. But it can’t be long before you qualify for your OAP bus pass. I’m counting the days myself.

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