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ITSO smartcards for up to 1 million young Scots

All residents in Scotland under the age of 22 will be eligible for free bus travel from 31 January 2022 as The Scottish Government confirm the timetable for the roll out of the ITSO scheme, delivered in partnership with the Improvement Service, the National Entitlement Card Programme Office and Young Scot.

In February 2020, the Scottish Government committed to extend free bus travel to young people aged under 19. Work was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic but restarted with a public consultation launched in October 2020. Following the consultation, the Scottish Government committed to launch free bus for under-19s as soon as practicable in the financial year 2021-22 and laid a draft SSI to create a new young persons’ bus concession scheme on 21 January 2021.

Legislative changes to allow the scheme to be extended from its original commitment to provide free travel for under-19s will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament this summer.

Approximately 930,000 young people will join the third of Scotland’s population who already benefit from free bus travel through the Older and Disabled Persons Free Bus scheme.

Minister for Transport, Graeme Dey said:

“It’s crucial to embed more sustainable travel behaviour from a young age if we are to achieve our world-leading goal of reducing the number of kilometres travelled by car by 20% by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2045.

“We also know that young people have been disproportionately impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s never been more important that we support them to achieve their fullest potential. Reducing barriers created by transport costs is one really positive action we can take.

“Our National Transport Strategy commits to a fairer, greener transport system which will reduce inequalities and take action to protect our climate. I’m really pleased to be taking decisive action on both of those points by setting out this timetable to provide free bus travel for all under-22s living in Scotland.”

Dr Sarah Gadsden, Chief Executive of The Improvement Service said:

“The Improvement Service is committed to providing better life chances for all children and young people. It’s a commitment fully reflected in our strategic priorities. We’re honoured to be a delivery partner for the Young Persons’ Travel Scheme.

“Together with the National Entitlement Card Programme Office, we’re moving at pace to the support the scheme’s roll out, drawing on our experience and expertise from managing the National Entitlement Card Scheme for over 15 years. We’re placing our assets at the disposal of the Young Persons’ Travel Scheme, enhancing them to make the application process as easy as possible, both online and when using traditional channels, and to reduce the administrative burdens on Councils.”

Kirsten Urquhart, Interim Chief Executive of Young Scot said:

“Young people often tell us about the positive impact free travel would have on their lives. For some, it'll help them to travel to work or take part in learning. For others, it'll improve their wellbeing by making it easier to socialise and to meet with their friends and family.

“Free travel that is accessed easily by the Young Scot National Entitlement Card will open doors for young people – helping them to explore opportunities that many would previously not have had the financial means or confidence to take part in.”