Council Leader James Stockan is encouraging people in Orkney to respond to an Island Impact Assessment on the importance of young folk receiving free ferry travel in line with a new Scottish Government concessionary bus scheme.
Islanders’ views are being sought through the Assessment ahead of the introduction of the Government’s extended free bus scheme for those living in Scotland under the age of 22.
While this is a welcome move, Councillor Stockan believes the concessions need to go further.
“The Scottish Government will be considering external ferry services only as part of this assessment but we need as many people as possible to press the fact that our internal ferries are our local bus services to the isles and therefore it is key to consider those services as part of the process. It is vital that our young people living in the islands are given every opportunity to benefit as much as their counterparts on the Scottish mainland and not disadvantaged further. I would encourage as many people as possible to push for this equality for our young people.”
The Government’s Transport Scotland is carrying out the island impact assessment to gauge the views of folk in the islands.
Consultation on the Young Persons Scheme in 2020 attracted 3073 responses and while those from island communities were generally in favour of the proposed provision of free bus travel for young people, a number raised concerns about its application to island communities.
Some respondents felt that young people living in island communities could be disadvantaged because they had to use ferries and not just road transport to access opportunities and considered free ferry travel to be essential to ensure parity between island dwelling young people and their mainland peers. Others said that inter-Island ferry travel should be treated in the same way as bus travel is on the mainland.
The Islands Impact Assessment is now seeking views on whether people consider there may be any other significantly different impacts on island communities that have not been reflected, and what measures might be considered to mitigate or improve the outcomes for island residents in relation to the provision of free bus travel to under 22s specifically.
The assessment is open now and will run until Monday 21 June. Submissions can be made via the Transport Scotland part of the Scottish Government website, or by email to: IslandsBusTravel@transport.gov.scot.