Free buses for under-22s in Scotland will help give young people the best possible start in life – Angus Robertson MSP

Young people in Scotland are getting a big boost in 2022 with the introduction of free bus travel by the Scottish government.

Young people need to have a new National Entitlement Card or Young Scot National Entitlement Card to travel for free (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Young people need to have a new National Entitlement Card or Young Scot National Entitlement Card to travel for free (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Applications have opened for five to 21-year-olds living in Scotland to access free bus travel – with a focus on children and young people who need to make essential journeys.

Research from Transport Scotland indicates that 70 per cent of young people would use public transport more frequently if it were free and now around 930,000 young people across Scotland will be eligible.

Free bus travel for young Scots is set to begin on January 31 as planned with a particular focus on young people who need to travel for essential purposes – for example, as key workers or for education or health or care reasons.

Children and young people aged five to 21 will need a new or replacement National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot National Entitlement Card (Young Scot NEC) before hopping on board. To find out more about securing a card, visit

Scotland’s minister for transport Graeme Dey has put in a power of work to get the scheme up and running: “I’m delighted that the under-22s free bus travel scheme will go live as planned on 31 January, with applications open now for children and young people to get their new or replacement national entitlement card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC.

“The current phase of the pandemic means that we are encouraging people to stay at home as much as possible. But there are many essential reasons for children and young people to travel by bus and I am keen that they benefit from this scheme at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, we are asking that only those for whom bus travel is essential apply at this time. This will help to minimise pressure on local councils, also impacted by the pandemic, which will be processing applications and responding to queries.”

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The scheme will be delivered in partnership with Transport Scotland, the Improvement Service, the National Entitlement Card Programme Office (NECPO), Young Scot, local authorities and bus operators.

Young people in Edinburgh and across Scotland are rightly challenging their politicians to take bold actions to create a sustainable future for them and free bus travel is an example of what can be done to rise to this challenge.

Making bus travel free for under-22s is not only important for helping tackle the climate emergency but it will take pressure off young people's finances and improve their access to education, leisure, and work.

Whilst we continue to live through the pandemic, we all recognise that essential travel must be prioritised so I want to specifically encourage those children and young people with essential journeys to apply for the entitlement card now.

Free bus travel for young people in Scotland will be a huge boost for the under-22s and the take-up of public transport. We all need to play our part in reducing the damaging impact on the environment. Taking the bus is a part of the solution to the climate crisis.

The SNP Scottish government is once again making an investment in our young people’s future, supporting them to have the best possible start in life and creating the fairer, greener Scotland that we want to build.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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