TRANSPORT Minister Keith Brown has snubbed calls to guarantee free fares for older and disabled people on Edinburgh’s trams.
He has also sent a clear signal that the Scottish Government plans to leave Capital council taxpayers to pick up the bill for any extension of the concessionary scheme.
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale accused the government of being “narrow-minded”.
She said: “This was built into the business case. It has been part of the deal since day one.
“We are talking about our capital city. A lot of people will be using the tram to travel from the airport to the city centre and on to other parts of Scotland. That’s why the Scottish Government took the decision to invest in the trams, because they would benefit not just the city but the whole country.”
Ms Dugdale challenged Mr Brown on the issue at question time in the Scottish Parliament, holding up a copy of the Evening News with the headline “You cannae put your granny on a tram”.
She quoted the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill in the Evening News in 2007, when he said it would be “absurd if pensioners and disabled people could not use the trams for free”.
Mr Brown said an announcement on the issue would be made shortly. But he said Strathclyde Partnership for Transport had written to him arguing that if there was concessionary travel on the trams it should apply to Glasgow’s subway, too.
He said Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi had “a very good point” when he said councils had the power to fund their own concessionary schemes on top of the national one.
Mr Brown said: “We can’t magic more money. Any money for this additional tram or any other concession scheme will have to come from the pot of money we currently use for buses.”
Ms Dugdale said the minister’s response was “really worrying”. She said: “There is a fundamental misunderstanding here. They seem to think that extending concessionary travel to the trams is somehow a threat to the buses.
“This is actually about securing the future of Lothian Buses by making sure they are properly funded to subsidise fares across the network, which means buses and trams.”