Last week saw a welcome announcement from the SNP Scottish Government about the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, which provides National Entitlement Cards to Scotland’s older and disabled people, allowing users to travel for free on our excellent local and Scottish long-distance bus services.
There has been a lot of scaremongering over recent months by many within the Labour Party that some could lose their free bus passes. In fact, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, has confirmed that not only will he be maintaining the age of eligibility at 60 and over for older users of the scheme, he will also be extending it to companions of eligible disabled children aged under five. This move alone could see over three thousand families and children additionally benefiting from the bus pass.
In total, the Scottish Government will be investing £250 million a year on the provision of free bus passes, through the scheme which is administered through our local authorities. Information on how to obtain a National Entitlement Card can be found on North Ayrshire Council’s website.
I was particularly pleased to hear that our Government’s ambitions do not stop and welcome the commitment to examine whether free bus travel can be extended further to help Modern Apprentices. Last Tuesday I had an informative and fun time as an ‘Apprentice for the Day’ at the Owl and Pussycat Nursery in Irvine, helping two Modern Apprentices, Chloe Beveridge and Aileigh Anderson, to carry out a variety of activities with the children, ranging from painting to an engaging story time! I was really impressed by the hard work undertaken by both Chloe and Aileigh, and by the nursery’s commitment to its investment in the apprenticeship scheme, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them, and Skills Development Scotland, for allowing me to participate.
The Scottish Government’s expansion of free childcare will see many further opportunities for jobs and a career in the Early Years, with all three and four-year olds, and eligible two-year olds, entitled to 1140 hours of free childcare by August 2020. As with the bus pass, the Modern Apprenticeship scheme is another real success story in Scotland – by 2021, some 30,000 apprenticeships will be available, providing an alternative and effective way into training and work, and helping to further reduce youth unemployment.
Finally, whilst many students will have been successful in getting the grades they needed last week, others will have been disappointed but students should all feel proud of themselves for the hard work they put in to getting to this point, as should the teachers and families who’ve supported them. I’ve been inspired by many in the last week who have been promoting the message on social media that there is #NoWrongPath to finding fulfilling careers. Whether you have got exactly what you needed and are heading exactly where you thought you would be or have had to adapt your plans after unexpected results I wish you all the best.