Free bus travel is an idea which is spreading rapidly and growing in popularity. Cities around the world are bringing it in to reduce car travel, help out those on the lowest incomes, and make their towns and cities greener, healthier, better places to live.

In the 2021-2026 parliament session, the Scottish Government needs to make some positive changes to our transport system in order to meet our climate commitments. Free bus travel needs to be at the top of the list.

Making buses free for everyone will:

  • Make buses a more attractive and affordable low carbon option, compared to polluting alternatives like private cars
  • Connect communities with loved ones, health care, and open up new education and work opportunities
  • Tackle transport poverty
  • Create demand for bus manufacturing and maintenance jobs in Scotland 

Transport is Scotland’s largest source of climate pollution – responsible for almost a third of our total annual emissions. Changing how we travel is key to tackling the climate crisis.

Transport decisions in the next Parliament must focus on moving away from the car-centric system we have at present, recognising that the future lies in increasing access to public transport and boosting walking, cycling, and wheeling.

Free bus travel reduces inequality and climate emissions; two essential goals for the next Scottish Government.

Buses should be run in the interest of passengers and communities, not just to create profits for shareholders. They should be run as a vital public service, like education or health, by bringing them into public control and making them free for everyone to use. All political parties should commit to supporting local authorities to run their own bus services, and making them free. 

At the moment, Scotland’s bus network is patchy at best, leading to a constant decline with a decrease of 100 million journeys in the ten years before the pandemic. It’s no coincidence that this has happened as more buses have been run by private operators, who are cutting routes and raising fares.

The next Parliament needs to redouble efforts to reduce car use. This means various measures to stop and discourage driving such as parking charges, reduced road space, and making it easier for people to walk or cycle for their journey.

As we make it slightly more expensive or time-consuming to drive, we need to make it much easier and cheaper to use the bus. This must happen at the same time, to deliver a just transition away from fossil fuel cars.

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Gavin Thomson

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