Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has written to the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP calling for future changes to the government’s concessionary travel scheme to “reflect the unique needs of island communities”.
The calls come as the Scottish Government launches a consultation seeking views on the concessionary travel scheme for older and disabled people.
In his letter to the Transport Minister, which will act as a response to the consultation, Mr McArthur pointed to the importance of demand responsive transport and internal ferries in Orkney and asked for future changes to concessionary travel to be “island proofed”.
The Orkney MSP wrote:
“Good, reliable transport connections are a lifeline for communities across Scotland, but particularly in rural and island areas. In Orkney, while sustaining a decent network of scheduled bus services is important, I believe there is more that could be done to allow Demand Responsive Transport options to help plug the gaps that exist.
“Accessible services such as Dial-a-Bus offer a perfect example of what can be provided. It is available at the cost of a bus fare rather than a taxi fare while Bus Passes and Young Scot Cards are accepted. Without this service, many people in Orkney, particularly the most vulnerable, would be left more isolated.
“There must therefore be a commitment to develop and expand this sort of demand responsive services that are such a lynchpin for island and wider rural communities.”
Mr McArthur also highlighted the need for the concessionary travel scheme to take more account of the role ferries play in island areas. He added:
“For many of my constituents, the ferry represents a ‘bus service’ of sorts. At present, any concessionary fare scheme on Orkney’s internal ferry services is at the discretion of and funded by Orkney Islands Council.
“This limits its scope and means that people in Orkney, notably those living in the isles, are unable to take advantage of the government’s concessionary fares scheme to anything like the extent of their counterparts on the Scottish mainland. I think there is an opportunity to look again at this issue and rebalance the benefits.”
The consultation on concessionary travel scheme for older and disabled can be accessed on the Scottish Government’s website. The consultation is open to all and will close on November 17th, 2017.