Youngsters who misbehave on public transport 'may lose free bus passes'

Officials have been asked to see if it would be possible to withdraw young people's bus passes if they misbehave.

Under-22s in Scotland could lose free bus travel due to anti-social behaviour benedek via Getty Images

Young people misbehaving on public transport may have their bus pass suspended under proposals being considered by the Scottish Government.

Fiona Hyslop said she has asked officials to look into whether it would be possible to digitally block people from using their national entitlement cards if they are abusing the scheme.

The transport minister said the majority of young people using their bus passes are doing so responsibly.

But for those causing disruption on the country’s bosses she would see whether they could be suspended from the scheme.

She told MSPs: “I have asked officials to look at what temporary digital blocking measures could be used but I understand this would require police time and cooperation, and identification of offending individuals, increased administrative time and expertise, and technological fixes which are not yet apparent.”

She said such a ban would not be age-specific.

It comes after several MSPs expressed concern that some under-22s are abusing the scheme.

Scottish Tory MSP for Central Scotland Graham Simpson said there was evidence of anti-social behaviour from some young people using the free bus passes.

That included those under the influence of alcohol or drugs as well as verbal and physical assaults on drivers and other passengers.

“There’s a perception the scheme may have also contributed towards increased anti-social behaviour in and around bus stations or other locations such as shopping centres,” Simpson said during a debate in Holyrood on Thursday.

There is concern about anti-social behaviour from some under-22s using the Scottish Government’s concessionary bus travel schemes.iStock

Young people had previously been found to have used the free bus pass to travel to other parts of the country to engage in fights, he added.

Pointing to incidents in Edinburgh, he said business owners, retail staff shoppers and residents in Bruntsfield and Morningside “have experienced vandalism, theft, intimidation and physical and verbal abuse”.

He said in just three days, Lothian Buses suffered £1,700 of broken windows.

And in Dundee, the Overgate Shopping Centre had seen youths travel from outside the area causing “mayhem” with £80,000 of damage in 18 months.

He added: “I’ve seen a quite shocking video of a horrific attack on a bus passenger in Prestwick where he was dragged off the bus and punched and kicked to the ground.”

The Tory MSP said ministers retained the ability to withdraw or suspend young people’s travel cards if other people use it or “in other such circumstances as they may determine”.

“Abuse it and you should lose it,” Simpson said.

“If the culprits hold a free travel card, then they are abusing a privilege paid for by the taxpayer and that should not continue.”

During the same debate, Tory MSP for Aberdeenshire West Alexander Burnett pointed to an incident of youngers travelling from Aberdeen to Deeside Rugby Club using the pass where they banged on the windows of the clubhouse, “barged in” and insulted members.

“Due to social media trends, we are seeing an increase in this behaviour – a minority of young people travelling simply to cause carnage in areas they previously could not access,” he told MSPs.

SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith Ben Macpherson said people of all ages have been guilty of anti-social behaviour on buses.

He told Parliament: “It’s anti-social behaviour more widely and a concerning increase more widely that we need to be engaged in focusing on what solutions may make the difference.”

He said any ban should focus on people of all ages who cause issues on public transport.

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