Scottish Conservatives urge SNP Government to offer free travel on Edinburgh trams and Glasgow subway for young people and pensioners

The Scottish Conservatives are focusing on ‘rebuilding communities’ as the party says councillors will lobby the SNP Government to fund free travel for young people and pensioners on public transport links.

To match the free travel offer rolled out on bus networks across Scotland, Scottish Conservative councillors have said they want to see the Government fully fund free travel for under 22s and over 60s on the Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh Tram.

The proposal is part of the Scottish Conservative 2022 election manifesto launch which is taking place in Glasgow on Thursday morning.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross will launch the party’s manifesto for the local council elections in Scotland’s largest city.

The Scottish Conservatives say councillors will lobby the SNP Government to fund free travel for young people and pensioners on Edinburgh trams and the Glasgow subway (Photo: Lisa Ferguson).

The launch comes during negative press for the party UK-wide as Boris Johnson faces calls to quit after being fined for a lockdown party in Downing Street in 2020.

Yet the Scottish wing of the party is adamant on focusing on local issues across Scotland.

Iain Whyte, leader of the Edinburgh Conservative group and Council Candidate for Craigentinny/Duddingston Ward said: “By fully funding free travel for under 22s and over 60s on the tramline, we could open this service up to older people, families and young people – improving access to schools, workplaces and attractions across the city.

Scottish Government funding for this would help take the pressure off the Council’s finances which, as a result of the SNP’s failed tram business case, are predicted to have to fork out £9m of taxpayer money a year, due to low passenger numbers.”

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A raft of pledges from the Tories include cutting council tax for almost four million households as well as focus on rebuilding local communities across Scotland by introducing a set amount of funding which will flow from Holyrood to local government.

While Edinburgh Trams extended free travel to under 22s in January this year, Edinburgh City Council currently funds this from their own budget.

In contrast, the Scottish Government pays a subsidy to bus companies for their free travel offering.

The call comes as the SNP has pledged to push ahead with tram extensions if they are returned to power in Edinburgh.

Adam McVey, leader of the SNP group in Edinburgh Council, insisted it was time to turn the tram line "into a network worthy of a modern European capital".

However, critics have insisted the move would “only deliver more misery” for the city.

Edinburgh's trams launched in 2014, three years late and massively over budget. The project was hugely controversial and a long-running inquiry into what went wrong is yet to reach a conclusion.

Mr Whyte said: “Edinburgh’s tramline has been controversial from the start – but with its extension to Newhaven currently ongoing, it cannot continue to be a service designed for visitors and tourists.

“Edinburgh’s trams must be made to work for Edinburgh residents.

“By refusing to fund free travel for these age groups on Edinburgh’s trams, the SNP Government is ignoring the unique needs and opportunities of Edinburgh’s public transport network.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives are ready to stand up to the SNP and deliver for the needs and priorities of local communities and Edinburgh residents.”

The SNP said current construction of the line to Newhaven remains on budget and on schedule to open for passengers in spring 2023.

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