SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod today (Friday) highlighted Labour MSP and Transport spokesman Elaine Murray’s failure to vote in favour of a key order to maintain concessionary bus travel and said the move has raised alarm that the Labour Party is on the brink of committing itself to axe the scheme.
The Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee this Wednesday voted through a subordinate legislation order that is essential for the National Bus Travel scheme to continue, but which Labour committee members, including Elaine Murray, failed to support.
Last year Johann Lamont established a Cuts Commission aimed at slashing universal benefits such as the older person’s bus pass, with the stark warning that “nothing is off the table”. This move came despite the fact that Labour’s 2011 Holyrood manifesto stated that “we will sustain the concessionary travel scheme.”
Labour’s extraordinary failure to support Concessionary Travel in committee will set alarm bells ringing that the party would axe the measure if it ever returned to office.
Dr McLeod commented:
“This extraordinary failure to back concessionary travel will set alarm bells ringing in communities across Dumfries & Galloway.
“We knew that free bus travel for older people was in Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission’s firing line, but there will be real concern that the fact that Labour’s own Transport spokesman won’t support the policy means that Labour has firmly decided to scrap it.
“With even the Tories voting in favour of continuing concessionary travel, you have to wonder what on earth Labour members were thinking of in refusing to do so.
“Despite backing the scheme in its Holyrood manifesto just two years ago, it seems Labour is determined to break its word to people across Scotland.
“By enabling people access to movement across Scotland, concessionary travel encourages physical and mental well-being and helps strengthen family and community ties.
“In contrast to Labour’s determination to impose restrictions to the scheme, the SNP is in no doubt about the need to protect the scheme that provides a lifeline to so many of Scotland’s older people.
“Since the concessions scheme introduction in 2006/7 the Scottish Government will have increased funding by £33m or 20% by the end of the agreed period of 2014/15.
“Policies like concessionary travel are part of the social contract that binds Scotland together and Labour’s foolish determination to undermine these services will rightly cause people to question whether they can trust anything the Labour says.”
Notes to editors:
In 2006/7 the budget for the national concession scheme was £159M. This will have risen to £192M by 2014/15.