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Ferries Community Board and Investment

Ministerial letter: Proposal to provide free bus travel to young people under 19

Ms. Kate Forbes.                                      Mr Michael Matheson
Cabinet Secretary For Finance.              Cabinet Secretary For Transport

Dear Cabinet Secretaries,

As the Ferries Community Board representing users of Ferries across the CalMac network we were pleased to note the very positive proposal to provide free bus travel to young people under 19. We are also supportive of the intention to encourage more young people to use public transport whilst opening up the opportunity for young people in all areas to have equality of access regardless of their geography or financial status.

This also brings into focus the position for young people for whom the ferry trip is their connecting bus trip, their way of accessing services and we believe all young people of the same age should be afforded the same rights and opportunities to free travel. The Islands Bill sets out the principal of Island Proofing new legislation and we would contend that the process of an Islands Community assessment would show the requirement to provide equality of opportunity. We also understand that positives outcomes of these assessments would be applied retrospectively  but it would be a really positive signal to our young people to incorporate the extended provision in the budget process. We would therefore  urge you to do just that and make a huge statement of intent to our young people.

The agenda for fairer fares for our youth is not a new one for the Ferries Community board. As part of the year of Young People 2018 we proposed a revision of the fares charged to minibuses taking young people to extra curricular activities between and off our Islands.

This would remove the anomaly of such minibuses being charged significantly higher rates than an equivalent length motor home and encourage educational travel for Island pupils. The Community board worked hard to have this principal accepted as good practice by CalMac, DML board, Local Authorities, various elected representatives and, we thought, Transport Scotland. We demonstrated no cost to the public purse and reluctantly accepted the use of a pilot on two routes to prove the case.

Almost 20 months on we still have not even  got the introduction of a pilot through the bureaucracy of approval within the contract. You will understand therefor how positively we welcome the speed of introduction of your proposals but underline our hope that Island youngsters receive the equal benefits and opportunities by extending the scheme to include ferry crossings.

As a Board we will do all we can do to positively support such initiates and are happy to do what we can to shape or facilitate proposals.Thank you for your ongoing support to our Island and rural communities.

Angus Campbell on behalf of the Ferries Community Board.

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