SNP set to dish out free bus passes to asylum seekers after £222m youth scheme | Politics | News

The SNP government is to give free bus passes to asylum seekers in a pilot travel scheme across Scotland, after splashing £222m on under 22s to also receive free travel.

People under the age of 22 and those over 60 are already exempt from paying for bus travel in the country, with asylum seekers expected to join them under the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy due to be introduced in April.

Former First Minister Humza Yousaf announced in September 2023 that the move was being considered, according to the Scottish Daily Express.

The Scottish Government outlined its aim to develop and deliver a national pilot scheme for free bus travel for people seeking asylum in a report published on Wednesday (July 10).

Edinburgh expects the initiative to result in better access to services, opportunities and communities for those who take part.

Transport Scotland is to lead the scheme with support from local authorities, charities, voluntary and community groups.

It comes after the cash-strapped SNP, who lost dozens of seats in the House of Commons at last week’s general election, came under fire for splashing £222m on its scheme to give youths in Scotland free bus travel – after it was claimed it allowed anti-social yobs wreak havoc, the Scottish Daily Express reports.

Equalities Minister, Kaukab Stewart MSP, said: “Scotland has a proud history of welcoming those fleeing war and persecution and we are dedicated to helping them integrate into communities from the day they arrive.

“It is vital we support refugees and people seeking asylum to understand their rights and access employment and services to help them to rebuild their lives in Scotland.”

She added the plan was drawn up with the help of those who have experienced seeking refuge in Scotland as well as those with expertise supporting them.

Ms Stewart said the pilot lays out the steps the Scottish Government will take to support refugees and people seeking asylum to integrate across different parts of society.

She continued: “It also recognises the role communities and employers can actively play in supporting people.”

Along with the free bus travel pilot, the Scottish Government also pledged to develop a plan to allow asylum seekers to work while they wait for their claims to be processed.

The plan would need to be submitted to the UK Government for approval, according to the document published today.

Under current rules, asylum seekers are not regularly allowed to work until their applications have been approved. Instead they have to apply to the UK Government for permission to take up employment.

The Home Office is responsible for setting asylum policy. As of June last year, there were 5,323 people in receipt of asylum related support from councils in Scotland.

By far the largest number are in Glasgow, where 4,520 people are in receipt of asylum-related support, according to the Scottish Government.

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