Free bus travel for 18s and under as SNP strikes budget deal with Greens

The SNP Government has struck a budget deal with the Greens which will see free bus travel for under 18s introduced in Scotland.

Newly appointed Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has been in talks with other parties across the political spectrum in Parliament in recent weeks. But she revealed that an agreement has again been reached with the SNP's regular budget partners.

"I am pleased to have reached an agreement to pass the Scottish budget and deliver certainty for communities, businesses and our vital public services – especially in face of the uncertainty created by the UK Government’s decision to delay its budget," she said.

“I want to thank all parties for the constructive way in which they have approached this year’s discussions. While it is not possible to meet every party’s demands in full, I believe in reaching formal agreement with the Green Party, I am also delivering on key asks from every party and I encourage all MSPs to consider giving their support to Scotland’s budget.

The deal agreed includes a National Concessionary Travel scheme offering free bus travel for 18s and under. The Scottish Government will undertake work on design and due diligence with a view to introducing such a scheme in January 2021

There will also be a total increase for the police service of £60 million in the next financial year with £13 million of additional investment in frontline services and a further £5 million of additional capital investment, on top of the £42 million already committed

Funding for councils will also increase by £95 million of further funding for local government, taking total additional Scottish Government support for local authorities to £589 million

She added: "To further increase our action to tackle climate change and to support young people across Scotland, we will take steps to introduce a National Concessionary Travel scheme providing free bus travel for Scotland’s 18s and under. We will begin the work now to ensure such a scheme is legally compliant and that it meets young people’s needs with the aim of introducing it from January 2021. Alongside the £500 million bus infrastructure fund, this will help deliver a step change in the use of public transport.

Kate Forbes revealed a budget deal has been struck with the Greens

“This budget invests a record £15 billion in health and care services, delivers Scotland’s unique child payment to lift our youngest out of poverty, transfers £3 billion of social security spending, supports our efforts to tackle the climate crisis and the creation of a Scottish National Investment Bank."

It comes a day before MSPs are due to vote on the budget at stage one on the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Free bus travel for young people is a transformational step towards tackling the climate emergency. This scheme will benefit young people starting college and families, some of whom stand to save thousands of pounds a year, and encourage whole generations of public transport users.

“Buses are the backbone of local public transport and the key to employment and training opportunities for so many of those starting out in life.

"Yet again it’s the Scottish Greens who have engaged constructively in the budget process to deliver for communities in Scotland."

The deal will also mean additional funding for low carbon capital projects across Scotland, including commitments to explore reopening the Dunfermline to Alloa rail link and improve the Milngavie rail line, as well as increasing the cycling and walking budget to £100m.