Mollie McGoran MSYP explains why the Scottish Youth Parliament support the #EveryoneAboard campaign to extend free bus travel to under 25s and those on low-income benefits
Hi! My name is Mollie McGoran! I’m a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament representing Caithness, Sutherland and Ross and I am also the Convener of the Transport, Environment and Rural Affairs (TERA) Committee. The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) is the democratic voice of Scotland’s young people. SYP is a rights-based charity, with members supported by all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities and 11 National Voluntary Organisations. Our democratically elected members listen to, recognise and campaign on the issues that are most important to young people.
As part of our ongoing Bounce Back campaign, achieving a green recovery is a priority for the Scottish Youth Parliament. As the TERA committee, we know that sustainable travel must be a key part of any green recovery for Scotland and so we have recently looked into removing the financial barrier for young people to access sustainable public transport by providing them with free bus travel. This will increase opportunities for employment, education and extracurricular activities for all young people under 25, and aid them in participating fully in society.
Our 2018 national campaign, All Aboard, aimed ‘To improve young people’s experience of public transport in Scotland’. To achieve this aim, the campaign focused on three themes: Reducing Fares, Accessibility and Bus Standards. We believe that Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government should provide funding to support initiatives which make it easier, cheaper, and safer for young people to use active and sustainable travel options. Through our campaign survey, cost of public transport was highlighted as one of the main deterrents, with nearly one third of young people who responded to this question saying they would use the bus more regularly if it was cheaper, or if there were promotions or higher concessionary discounts.
Our campaign findings support the aims of the Poverty Alliance’s Everyone Aboard campaign. Young people consistently said that bus fares were too high, and the barriers to participation this creates is denying young people opportunities. This would be of particular benefit to young people who live in areas of deprivation or rural areas, who are often overlooked for support.
It is also a timely reminder that young people have been some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. So, as we call for in our Bounce Back campaign, young people must be put at the heart of the recovery. Expanding sustainable transport options would open up opportunities and help young people to participate more fully in society and be one part of the wider recovery.
I believe that ultimately this is a human rights issue, as limiting our access to affordable travel infringes on children’s and young people’s right to play and leisure. This could also impact young people’s right to education as transport could be a key factor which determines whether someone will pursue further study or not. This could also infringe on young people’s right to health and health services, as limited accessible transport options was highlighted as one of the reasons why people miss hospital appointments.
While there are many other benefits, a key reason we need to encourage the use of buses and other forms of public transport is to help tackle the climate emergency. In the past, we’ve seen roads lined with cars, polluting our air, damaging the environment, and causing mountains of traffic which ultimately inconveniences all commuters. Post pandemic, we need to move into sustainable and active transport modes to limit our CO2 outputs and our fuel consumption, to help protect our planet. SYP is campaigning for a fair, green recovery from COVID-19, and we call on decision-makers to be the change we need to see and demonstrate that they are committed to tackling the climate emergency by reducing fares to make public transport accessible and affordable!
Mollie McGoran is a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Trustee for National Campaigns and Conveners Group, and Convener of the Transport, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee.