Calls for SNP's flagship free bus scheme to be scrapped amid 'off the scale' rise in 'lawless behaviour'

4 May 2023, 10:37

There's calls for the SNP's flagship free bus travel scheme to be scrapped
There's calls for the SNP's flagship free bus travel scheme to be scrapped. Picture: Alamy
Alan Zycinski

By Alan Zycinski

There have been calls for the SNP's flagship free bus travel scheme to be scrapped with residents and some drivers blaming it for a rise in "lawless behaviour".

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The Scottish Government started issuing passes to all under-22s in January last year allowing them to ride buses for free.

But since then, operators in Glasgow and Edinburgh say a rise in anti-social behaviour - including arson attacks - has led to them threatening to cancel key services to keep drivers safe.

Undercover police have been brought in to patrol services which youths have repeatedly vandalised, abused other passengers and staff - and set on fire.

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Residents near bus stops in areas like Gorebridge and Pollok have also reported teenagers causing havoc in recent months.

Many on social media are now calling for the travel scheme to be removed completely or at least adapted - including several drivers.

One wrote : "Get rid of the free passes! I’m a driver for Lothian and kids get on for a couple of stop etc. cause mayhem and us drivers and passengers. Since these passes have started the antisocial behaviour is off the scale."

Another said: "I am a driver for first in Glasgow and the antisocial behaviour has massively increased since the introduction of the under 22 bus pass. It's shocking the abuse that we drivers receive."

A Glasgow local said: "Problem is they don’t have to sit in a park drinking anymore they can sit on buses drinking with their mates participating in anti-social behaviour due to the free bus pass scheme.

"These aren’t teens travelling home. They’re going around and around same routes. Now it will have an impact on others."

A parent in Edinburgh said: Remove the bus passes, that will quiet things down, it’s shocking having to use valuable resources to monitor passengers ln buses.”

Another posted: "I think they should amend the free bus passes and make that they can only be used during school hours say from 8am to 5pm and only be able to use them outwith these times if accompanied by an adult."

One user said: "It's becoming a lawless society, created by the SNP.”

And a passenger in Midlothian wrote: “Yesterday was absolutely disgusting and young girls using language you would never imagine…remove the passes if police get involved!”

On Friday 14th April, Local Community Officers teamed up with staff from Lothian Transport to carry out patrols in...

Posted by Police Scotland Midlothian on Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Labour Councillor Rasheed Bhatti's working with groups including Police Scotland to prevent key bus routes in his Glasgow Pollok ward being scrapped.

He thinks counter measures have had an impact in recent weeks but agrees there has been a rise in anti-social behaviour up to that point.

He said: "There's been incidents of fire-raising and arson.

"It literally has been young boys setting newspapers alight on the seats.

"There's now more visible police patrols and undercover patrols too."

Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson MSP said: “This kind of antisocial behaviour on public transport is always unacceptable but it would be extremely unfair if the vast majority of law-abiding young people were punished for the actions of a minority of unruly teenagers.

“But there must be proper resources for bus companies, the police and other authorities to deal with this effectively, and they have all been starved of resources by the SNP Government for years.

“Combined with the Nationalists’ soft-touch approach to justice that sees young offenders routinely getting away with only the lightest punishment, that’s a recipe for the service being abused.

“It’s intolerable that other passengers should be intimidated by this kind of hooliganism, and ministers should ensure the appropriate resources and support are provided to tackle it."

The Scottish Government said: "There is no evidence to suggest that there has been a rise in youth crime in Scottish cities as a result of the provision of free bus passes to people under the age of 22.

"Free bus passes help reduce social inequality, provide better access to work, education and leisure and give younger generations a better start in life."

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