Along with free personal care for the elderly and the smoking ban, concessionary travel is one of the greatest achievements of devolution. Of course, all three policies are a reminder of an era when Scotland had governments that “got on with the day job”, and did not focus on grievance and division.
People visiting our Capital, however, should not blame the City of Edinburgh Council for the situation whereby older people from outside Edinburgh can’t use the Capital’s trams for free. This situation is entirely the making of the Scottish Government. Despite repeated requests from City Chiefs, the SNP Government refuse to extend concessionary travel to Edinburgh’s trams. The only reason Edinburgh’s older residents can use the tram for free is due to the actions of Labour’s Lesley Hinds (with some encouragement from an Evening News campaign!).
People approaching 60 should not assume, however, that they will be travelling anywhere on trams or for free. The Nationalist Government is currently consulting on substantially cutting the eligibility for concessionary travel. They plan to base the cut to the provision on age, not income. One option is to “raise the age of eligibility for both men and women in one step from 60 to the State Pension age”. I would urge those who have concerns about this to respond to the consultation (closes on the 17th of November).
One interested party may be City of Edinburgh Council as the SNP cut would save them the money it would otherwise pay to Edinburgh Trams to support free use. Edinburgh Trams may however, lose income if there is a resultant reduction in usage. Indeed, the Outline Business Case for completing the tramline to Newhaven states quite clearly that with respect to concessionary travel: “the model assumes that these arrangements will continue”. I have written to Council Officers to ask for clarity on this point.