South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has described the decision by local SNP and Tory MSPs to vote down his proposal for free bus travel for NHS and Social Care workers for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis as a “kick in the teeth” for those workers.

The amendment, tabled by Colin Smyth, was defeated today (May 20) at Stage 3 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill as a result of SNP and Tory MSPs voting it down.

The proposal would have cut travel expenses for all the frontline NHS and Social Care workers keeping Scotland going throughout this pandemic. The Scottish Government has already intervened to offer financial support for rail and bus operators during this time, so the plan would have been funded from this, not costing taxpayers more.

Under Colin Smyth’s proposal, free travel could have been introduced immediately as it would not have required the issuing of concessionary bus passes. Bus operators would have to allow NHS and Social Care staff to travel free in return for the financial support they are receiving from the Government.

NHS and Care staff would simply have to show their NHS or Social Care Photo ID. A similar scheme is already in place in Wales and Northern Ireland, but so far the Scottish Government have failed to introduce proposals for Scotland.

Colin Smyth said: “Our NHS and Care workers are putting their own lives on the line to protect others, and it is disappointing that the Scottish Government has refused to at least remove their travel costs if they have to use public transport– despite offering a large financial support package to the transport companies.

“Some of these staff members have no other option than to travel to the front line by using public transport, and unlike their counterparts in some other parts of the UK they have to fork out for the privilege of doing so.

“The Labour-run Welsh government has offered bus companies financial support in exchange for committing to free NHS travel, with a similar scheme in Northern Ireland.

“Companies such as Borders Buses have been offering free journeys to NHS staff, despite the Scottish Government choosing not take responsibility for this and extend it to all of Scotland. All bus companies should be asked to do so in return for the millions of pounds of support they are receiving from the taxpayer at this time. It really is a kick in the teeth for local NHS and Care Staff that their local Tory and SNP MSPs voted down this plan.”

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