Free bus travel in Scotland for under 22s

All young people and children aged 5-21 years are supposed to be able to access Free Bus Travel Scheme from 31 January. But sadly the system blocks asylum seekers and those not born in the U.K., sending them on a fruitless merry go round.

UPDATE: Try this Guide to applying for Free bus passes for Under 21s in Scotland. Tell us if it works for you by emailing 

The Scottish Government says every young person in Scotland, including asylum seekers, will get free bus passes. However, no account has been taken of how the Hostile Environment of Westminster blocks equal access to asylum seekers, those with NRPF and people of migrant stock. 

The Scottish Government had good intentions when it said free bus passes would be available to asylum seekers. Sadly, the Government, the Improvement Service and Young Scot have collectively failed to understand  the devastating impact of Westminster’s Hostile Environment on equality of access for minority ethnic groups. This has led to a reinforcement of Westminster’s Hostile Environment and institutional racism in the form of colourblind denial. 

The Government is working in partnership with the Improvement Service (who are accountable for the NEC Scheme), National Entitlement no Card Programme Office (who are responsible for the management of the NEC and support local authorities with the application process), and Young Scot to deliver the scheme.

Unfortunately if you are a young asylum seeker, applying for free bus travel for under 21s is a fruitless process that means navigating multiple websites and making offline approaches to the council, rather than a straightforward online application. And neither produces any results. If you don't have a driving license or passport you are supposed to apply offline and submit additional proofs. Nothing works.

We sought advice from Scottish Government officials. They helpfully gave advice, which did not work , then put us in touch with the Improvement Service and Young Scot. They in turn gave a lot of advice, which proved fruitless, they then refused to accept the system excluded all but a select few.

For example, the young scot website tells you to apply via NEC. This website tell you three ways to get a free bus pass. 

The first option sends you to another website, which tells you to contact your local authority.  The one for Glasgow says: "Associated card number (First six digits): 633740" … this fails to explain what relevance this has to a free bus pass application. It also provides a Phone number for Young Scot Glasgow helpline : 0141 276 0727 and an (we called the number but no one got back to us; we sent an email to this email address but no reply). It also refers you to the Glasgow Life website: but this took us back to and

Option two says: “If you don't have all the proofs required, you can't apply on, so click here to find the contact details of your council who will be able to offer another application method. “. …. After reading through a lot of blurbs you are told to look at the “list for the contact information for your local authority council area”. But there is no list.

On Option three, you are told you can't save your NEC application and that you need a mygov account and a passport or driving license or aYoti account (?!), or proof of address such as council tax bill or bank statement. Asylum seekers do not have any of these proofs. Your 100% blocked. There is a section called Applying for your child, which tells parents or guardians which additional proofs you need to apply for a free bus pass. Heartbreakingly, not a single form of proof will allow young asylum seekers (or young people with No Recourse to Public Funds) to get a free bus pass. 

None of the proofs or additional proofs are available to asylum seekers.  Non U.K. birth certificates are rejected by the system. Asylum seekers passports are either confiscated by the Home Office or destroyed by people smugglers em route to the U.K. The mygovscot account is impassable. Asylum seekers are not allowed to hold U.K. driving licences. No one has a clue what a Yoti account is. And Asylum seekers do not have Council tax bills because they are not allowed to rent or buy a home. They are forcibly dispersed to whichever hotel or accommodation the Home Office and it's accommodation contractors decide they must live in. Asylum seekers don't have bank statements because they are forbidden by Westminster's Hostile Environment to hold one.

the institutions appear to be in denial about the extent of exclusion by design of this system for all but a select group.

We are now getting complaints from young asylum seekers and parents  saying that no one is responding to emails. People are being sent round in circles yet free bus travel is due to begin on 31 January.

There are many children of asylum seekers who are not at school. There are many asylum seekers under 22 who are not at college either. People of colour are disproportionately discriminated against and do not have access to the scheme even though they are entitled to it.  

This debacle exposes how badly designed and archaic the NEC system is, and how it disproportionately excludes people of colour. It needs a massive overhaul. 

It's unjust to give false hope to people whose hopes have already been dashed by the Hostile Environment. Worst of all, from January 31, young people of colour face walking to school, or paying exorbitant costs for bus travel while their white counterparts get on the bus for free. Rosa Parks would turn in her grave. The system must change and remove institutional racism from its system, from exclusion to denial.

if you come across problems with the application process, online or offline, email

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