While national questions have dominated the political conversation as we head towards the general election, Scots will also go to the polls this week to vote for local councillors.

There has been criticism that the major parties have focused too much on the impending Westminster vote at the expense of local issues.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotlands impartial fact check project

Scottish Labour is fighting to retain its stronghold over Glasgow’s city chambers, where it has been in control for more than three decades.

A controversial statement on the party’s leaflets in the city made headlines, claiming that the SNP was considering changing the criteria for the free bus pass scheme.

This was followed by a statement from Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby on May 1, who suggested the plan was to cut back eligibility.

Ferret Fact Service found that while Bibby’s claim lacked firm evidence there was a lack of clarity from the SNP.

Evidence

Scottish Labour is referencing a move from the SNP government to consult on the future sustainability of the free bus pass.

The party says the Scottish Government is planning to increase the age at which people qualify for free bus travel, citing a report from The Sunday Post.

A row between the parties has emerged after reports that Labour canvassers were telling voters that pensioners would lose their bus passes under the SNP.

This led to a public denial from both transport minister Humza Yousaf and party leader Nicola Sturgeon.


However, Neil Bibby’s specific claim that eligibility criteria will be “cut” has so far gone unrefuted.

The consultation will begin later this year, and transport minister Humza Yousaf has not confirmed that the eligibility age, currently 60 years old, would remain.

This implies that raising the age limit for those who can receive the elderly concession bus pass is at least under government consideration.

He did however say that they would guarantee that those already with cards would not have them removed and there would be “no reduction in eligibility for disabled people”.

Mr Yousaf told the BBC in January: “Clearly people are living longer, they are staying in work longer – which are all good things – but it does add a pressure.

“So we will consult on the long-term sustainability of the national concession travel scheme and we look forward to hearing people’s views.”

The elderly and disabled concession bus pass was launched on April 1 2006 by the Labour-led coalition at Holyrood. It is currently used by over one million people in Scotland.

The Scottish Government predicts that around 70,000 people will reach the age of 60 and become eligible under the current scheme in 2017.

It is true that this year’s budget contained a reduction in funding for concessionary travel compared to the year before, but it was £9.5m rather than £10m.

It is also important to note that Bibby’s claim describes “cutting back eligibility criteria”, but there are firm policy plans that the SNP will in fact extend the concession to modern apprentices.

The Scottish Government estimated that up to 25,000 modern apprentices aged 16-20 and between 6,500 and 8,500 job grant recipients aged 16-24 could be given the concession when the scheme starts in April 2018.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Half True

Scottish Labour and Bibby’s statement that the SNP is planning to cut eligibility for the concessionary bus pass is not based on any firm statement of policy. However, while the SNP has promised nobody will lose their current eligibility, they may still alter the rules that govern the scheme in the future.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Any questions or want to get involved? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our community forum.

Scottish Labour provided a link to the Sunday Post story as evidence for the claim.

Photo thanks to Graham Mitchell, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Neil Bibby
Labour MSP


“The SNP Government has cut the bus pass budget by £10m and plan to cut back the eligibility criteria for the bus pass after the election.”

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  1. conrad says:

    I'm not sure I'd nitpick somebody over rounding £9.5m to £10m: that seems perfectly acceptable, at least in a news briefing. If he'd said £10.0m things would be different.

    Worse, the number given is in nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) terms. In real terms it's £12.3m in 2016/17 pounds, or £12.5m in 2017/18 pounds. I think.

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