Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 10:02 UK

Review for free bus travel scheme

Rural bus stop
The free bus scheme began in 2004

The Scottish Government is to review a concessionary scheme which gives pensioners and disabled passengers free bus travel across Scotland.

Operators have been told that fare reimbursement is to be capped.

Scottish Labour said Alex Salmond could go down in history as the first minister who "shoved Scotland's grannies off the bus".

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said funding for the scheme was being increased, despite the review.

Neil Renilson, chief executive of Transport Edinburgh, the company which runs Lothian buses, predicted there may be restrictions ahead because the scheme had proven too popular in the past.

He said: "If you want to buy more of something than you can afford - which is basically the position the government is in - you scale back the amount you actually buy.

"In the case of concessionary travel, that would mean making changes to the scheme so that less people are eligible in future years."

More money

Labour's environment spokesman, Des McNulty, told BBC Radio Scotland that the situation had arisen because the Scottish Government had not put enough money into the scheme.

He said: "We feel that concessionary travel is the biggest thing that devolution has delivered to the people of Scotland, in particular the pensioners.

"The retention of that scheme in its present form is a priority. Whatever restrictions are imposed will take away from its value."

However, Mr Stevenson said the government would be negotiating with bus operators to keep costs down.

"The bus companies are quite rightly identifying that this is a scheme which needs to be properly funded," he said.

"We are responding to that with 6m next year and 2m further in 2010 and 2011."

He added: "The bus companies have a commercial operation, they will negotiate robustly with government and we will equally make sure that we are protecting the taxpayer."

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