The Scottish Government have announced that all young people aged 5 - 21 in Scotland are eligible for free bus travel as part of the 'Young Person's Bus Travel Scheme'. In order to access this service a NEC travel card is required which in some instances requires validation by those with parental responsibility.

The following policy note relates to young people who are care experienced. 

Policy Note correct as of 25 Jan 2022 

This policy note is intended to ensure consistency of approach across local authorities while supporting looked after children to access free bus travel. The note outlines the intent of the scheme and advises that in line with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the views of young people are taken into account when considering whether to approve an application for free bus travel. 


 The Young Persons’ Scheme will become operational on 31 January 2022. Applications for a new or replacement National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC needed to access the scheme can be made from 10 January.

 Further information on the scheme and full details on how to apply are available at Young Persons' Free Bus Travel Scheme (


Policy intent 

The Young Persons’ Scheme is designed to encourage Scotland’s young people to use low-emission and lower carbon public transport with a view to embedding that behaviour from a young age, to tackle the climate emergency and to improve air quality in towns and cities by reducing the number of car journeys.

In addition to the core transport and environmental aims, potential further benefits of the scheme are the promotion of social inclusion (by improving access to education, healthcare, training and employment etc.) and reduction in child poverty, by allowing all children and young people to enjoy mobility and access regardless of their circumstances.


Parental approval

Children and young people aged 5 to 21 will need a new or replacement National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC before they can access free bus travel.  Children under the age of 5 already travel for free on the majority of commercial bus services. 

It is a requirement of the scheme that a parent or guardian applies on behalf of any person under 16, to ensure that they can exercise their parental rights and responsibilities on whether it is appropriate to allow their child to access free bus travel.

Young people aged 16-21 years old (inclusive) can apply for their own NEC or Young Scot NEC with the free bus travel entitlement.


Getting help to apply within a Local Authority

Responsibility for processing NEC applications sits within different sections within local authorities but every local authority has one or more validation points available. Often the validation function resides within the Customer Services section of a local authority.   In each case, existing NEC application processes should be used to ensure that those eligible for free bus travel can access it and whoever currently processes NEC applications should be contacted for assistance with acquiring a new or updated National Entitlement Card.


Looked after children

 As corporate parents, local authorities are committed to ensuring that the children and young people they look after experience the same opportunities and life experiences that are open to their non-care experienced peers. Like any good parent, they will want to ensure that children in their care are included and kept safe.

All 5-21 year olds living in Scotland are eligible to apply for the Young Persons’ Scheme and all looked after children and young people should be supported to access free bus travel where appropriate. 

 There are three different scenarios that may apply when a child or young person is looked after by a local authority:

  • The child or young person is looked after and accommodated and the local authority hold parental rights and responsibilities;
  • The child or young person is looked after at home and parental rights and responsibilities remain with their parents; and
  • The child or young person is looked after and accommodated but parental rights and responsibilities remain with their parents.

In the first two scenarios there are no particular issues with regard to establishing who is best placed to apply on behalf of the child or young as person as parental rights and responsibilities are clearly established.

In the third scenario, though parental rights and responsibilities rest with the parent,  the local authority has care of the child or young person, it is therefore their responsibility to make the application.

The presumption in this situation is that the child or young person’s foster care, kinship carer or residential manager, as the person with care of that child or young person, has the delegated authority to apply. Local authorities should ensure that delegated authority processes are clear, including where they should seek further advice, to avoid any barriers to smooth applications.

Decisions regarding who should make the application should be made quickly and should include discussion with the child, their social worker, and other responsible parties.  It is important that the circumstances of each looked after child are considered independently on a case-by-case basis and that any decision not to grant approval for the travel product should be regularly reviewed.