Scotland’s transport minister has been accused of “freely admitting” a potential shake-up over free bus travel after he raised “concerns” over their long-term sustainability. Humza Yousaf made the comments just weeks before the results of a wide-ranging consultation on raising the age of eligibilty.
He said it was important to find a balance with the scheme and ensuring affordability, due to Scotland’s ageing population. Mr Yousaf said there was “concern around the longer-term sustainability” of the scheme, with Scottish ministers considering raising the age of eligibilty. He added: “We know that we have an ageing population, an ageing demographic – as most of western Europe does – and therefore we have to find a balance between making this scheme fair, realising the benefits of it, and making it sustainable in the long term.
A Carlisle lady calls for support for a petition to reduce the qualifying age for a bus pass to age 60 in England. Christine Russell thinks it is unfair that women in parts of the country get a free pass at age 60, while others are forced to wait until they are 65 or more..
Our comment: And to rub salt into the wounds people in Scotland can get a bus pass at age 60, which also entitles them to free standard class rail travel on journeys to and from Berwick-upon-Tweed and Carlisle
Understandable how people in England feel where passes are now only available from about age 65 and increasing further in the years ahead, whilst in Scotland, Wales & N Ireland passes are available at age 60.
PS: why is the campaign for women only ?
Sign the petition
In Scotland people aged 60 or over are holding their breaths whilst the outcome of The Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of bus pass entitlement in Scotland is awaited. The closing date for responses was November 17th 2017. In brief the 3 options consulted on are:
- make no change to the scheme, leaving the eligibility rules as they are (i.e. age 60); or
- raise the age of eligibility for both men and women in one step from 60 to the (female) State Pension age (which will be 65 in November 2018 and will increase to 68 over a number of years )
- raise the age of eligibility for men and women progressively towards the State Pension age (see 2 above) by annual increases of one year or half a year to the age of eligibility.
NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.
Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.
Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.
The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.
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The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.
Our comment: A founding principal of the foundation of the NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. We regard the way hospitals are charging for hospital parking is incompatible with that principal.
Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.
The Scottish Government’s proposal to raise the eligibility age for concessionary travel could have a damaging effect on bus services in South-West Scotland, SWestrans, the area’s regional transport partnership, has warned.
Responding to Transport Scotland’s concessionary fares consultation (LTT 15 Sep), SWestrans says that any raising of the age eligibility criteria could see the number of bus journeys fall.
Sad to hear, but
Councillors in the Borders have backed increasing the age at which people are eligible for a free bus pass to the state pension age.
The Scottish government is consulting on changing the qualification criteria.
It could mean people aged 60 and over would not automatically be entitled to free bus travel in Scotland.
Scottish Borders Council backed increasing the age but also wanted to ensure people with disabilities kept getting the pass regardless of age.
However, in neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway the region’s transport partnership – Swestrans – has urged no changes to the scheme.
It has said any move to raise the age level could threaten local services.
The consultation on any changes was announced earlier this year.
It could see the scheme – introduced in 2006 – extended to Modern Apprentices and those on Job Grants but it is looking at the “long-term sustainability” of offering all those over 60 free travel.
Council chiefs are set to reject proposals to raise the age limit on free bus travel — as they call on ministers to protect local services.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a proposal to raise the age at which free bus travel can be claimed from 60 to 65.
The proposed change could take effect next year, when the women’s state pension age is equalised with that of men at 65.
However, Dundee City Council council bosses are officially opposed to the move and next week members look set to ratify a statement that will be sent to ministers — saying occasional bus users are being hit by higher prices needed to fund the scheme.
The council said in its statement: “The bus is primarily used by people travelling around their local communities — again people mainly from low-income households, elderly and disabled, women and younger people. The Government should be safeguarding expenditure for those modes of transport that support those with most need in society.
“If Government is to push ahead with this change, a significant proportion of the savings should be ring-fenced for supporting the local bus network.”
A report to be considered at the city development committee on Monday states that the current reimbursement system has driven up the costs of adult single tickets — making bus travel for occasional users seem expensive.
It is a maligned mode of transport, but the bus is helping to drive Scotland’s economy, says Martyn McLaughlin. With an unrivalled location on the Black Isle’s north-west coast and panoramic views of the Cromarty Firth, it should come as no surprise that the village of Culbokie is increasingly favoured by those who work in Inverness. On a good day, it takes a little over 20 minutes to skirt across the Kessock bridge, a commute well worth it for the chance to reside in one of Scotland’s most picturesque spots.
The only caveat, however, is that you need a car. In April, Stagecoach withdrew its service after losing out in a Highland Council re-tendering exercise. Now, residents in the rural nook who wish to travel to Inverness by public transport are forced to traipse nearly two miles to flag down a passing service, and even then, their window of opportunity is limited. According to Norlil Charlton, a member of a local action group battling to get a direct service reinstated, it is impossible to get to Inverness before 10am, or return to Culbokie after 2:30pm. The only alternative is to hitch a lift, or pay around £50 for a round trip in a taxi. At least one family has moved to Cromarty as a result.
Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/martyn-mclaughlin-public-buses-are-lifeline-and-vital-to-scots-economy-1-4589528
The age limit for free bus passes could be raised as a consultation on the benefit gets under way.
Transport minister Humza Yousaf has issued a call for views on proposals aimed at making the concessionary travel scheme affordable in future.
More than 1.3 million over-60s and disabled people benefit from the free bus pass, accounting for about 145 million journeys each year or a third of all those made in Scotland.
The scheme is facing a £9.5m cut in the 2017-18 draft budget despite rising numbers of older people.
Yousaf insisted passes would not be taken away from those who already benefit or are due to obtain one before the changes come in.
Labour said the SNP has “no mandate” to make cuts to the bus pass budget as no such policy was in their manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election.
The new consultation looks at whether the age of eligibility should be raised in one go or gradually to bring it into line with the state pension age, which will be equalised for men and women in 2018.
This topic has been raised many times, the most recent in January 2017
A GLASGOW MSP is asking constituents to help him with a dilemma of ageing.
John Mason wants to find out if people think he should apply for a free bus pass as he has just turned 60.
Mr Mason, while agreeing with the concessionary travel scheme, said he is in a well-paid job and can easily afford the bus fare.
He is grappling with the decision of using what he is entitled to or accepting something for free at a cost to the public purse, which on a MSP salary of almost £62,000 he can afford to pay for.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has accused the Conservatives of doing the ‘bare minimum’ for older people and of ‘shameful’ treatment of pensioners.
In the run up to the general election in June a key battleground is over the state pension, with Labour pledging to keep the triple lock on the state pension but the Tories yet to make a commitment to this.
SNP MP for Ross Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford has today claimed the Tory Party is u-turning on the triple lock and depriving pensioners of support.
‘The Tories have turned their back on our older people,’ he said.
‘As well as potentially u-turning on the triple lock on the state pension, they have done absolutely nothing to encourage older people to claim the vital financial support they are entitled to. Instead, the Tories are happy to let almost £300 million sit in the Treasury’s coffers rather than try and get extra support to those who need it.’
Our comment: We try to be non political, but will bring you news affecting pensioners from all political parties.
Earlier this year The Sunday Post revealed how the Scottish Government is planning to increase the eligibility age for the popular concessionary travel scheme.
It is expected this will see the minimum age rise from 60 to 65 with current pass-holders unaffected.
Figures released under freedom of information laws show that last year £45m of the £187.7m spent on the free bus pass scheme was accounted for by users in the 60 to 64 age bracket.
Around one in five holders of the free bus pass are between the ages of 60 and 64, with many of them working commuters.
Meanwhile, a new poll has revealed the majority of older Scots have backed the age increase.
Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Neil Bibby MSP said: “The SNP is failing passengers up and down the country.
“Under the nationalists, vital services have been cut while ticket prices have gone up. Communities have been left stranded as key routes have been scrapped.