Calls to ban rich OAPs from free bus scheme


By Michael MacLeod

CRITICS are calling on rich pensioners to be banned from free bus travel.

The concessionary fare scheme allows everyone over 60 to travel anywhere in Scotland for free, with the Scottish Government picking up the tab.

But opposition MSPs want it to be means tested to stop millionaires or highly paid people approaching retirement commuting for free at taxpayers’ expense.

Among those currently eligible for free bus travel is SNP transport minister Stewart Stevenson, 64, who earns over £80,000.

His shadow transport minister, Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw, wants the scheme reviewed to save money.

Used by more than one million Scots, it cost £187 million last year, with around £40 million accounting for free journeys taken by people younger than the male retirement age.

Vulnerable people

Carlaw said: “At a time when the country is struggling to cope with record debts people have a right to ask why multi-millionaires are entitled to free bus passes to travel the length and breadth of Scotland at taxpayers’ expense.

“Perhaps now is the time to consider how we can address this anomaly without jeopardising support for older and more vulnerable pensioners who genuinely require a helping hand.”

Taxpayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said: “The free bus pass scheme is unfair as it’s available regardless of income.

“Taxpayers facing rising bills, and now a VAT hike too, are effectively paying for wealthy people or those with access to cars to travel.

“The free bus pass should just be targeted at those who genuinely need it.”

The Scottish Government said it was committed to extending the scheme, which was introduced in 2006 to replace local initiatives.

They said: “The concessionary fares scheme has been a widespread success, bringing free travel to elderly and disabled people across Scotland and the Scottish Government is committed to its continuation.

“Indeed we are extending the scheme to ensure that injured veterans, who have served our country so bravely, will be able to enjoy the benefits of free bus travel from spring 2011.

“Older and disabled people continue to travel for free throughout Scotland at any time, on any bus routes, for any number of journeys, a welcome boost in these difficult economic times.”