Brakes put on free bus travel for city school pupils

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PLANS by the SNP to offer free bus travel for all Edinburgh school children in an effort to tackle "school run" congestion have been put on hold.

The plan was outlined in the party's manifesto for the Holyrood elections in May. But now the Scottish Executive has admitted the scheme is unlikely to be implemented in the near future.

It blamed the Scottish Parliament's decision to press ahead with the trams against the SNP's wishes. But today opposition parties accused the Nationalists of using their defeat over the trams as an excuse for ditching a manifesto pledge.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson failed to mention the initiative when Liberal Democrat backbencher Hugh O'Donnell asked him about measures he planned to take to improve the safety of children on their way to and from school. The Executive said the free bus travel proposal had been tied to the SNP's plans to scrap the trams scheme - which were defeated in July when the opposition parties combined to vote in favour of the project.

But former Tory leader and Edinburgh Pentlands MSP David McLetchie said: "This is a pathetic excuse. They are simply using the trams to back out of a commitment they had previously made. The SNP is not only the Scottish Executive, it is also part of the administration on the city council, so it has the means both nationally and locally to implement this policy."

An Executive spokesman said: "Our plans for a school bus pilot have clearly been affected by the Scottish Parliament's decision to retain trams. However, the pilot remains a commitment we will look to deliver over the four-year term."