ALMOST one in four Scots now hold a concessionary bus pass entitling them to free travel, with the scheme costing the Scottish Government £181 million in the past financial year.

The latest statistics on bus travel reveal 1,262,261 people in Scotland possessed a free bus pass in January this year, equivalent to 24% of the population.

The figure includes 1,074,616 people aged over 60, making up 85% of all bus pass holders. The remainder were visually impaired or disabled.

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The figures show that, similar to recent years, around one-third of all bus journeys in Scotland were taken by someone who used a concessionary pass.

Scottish Government support for concessionary bus fares in Scotland amounted to £181m in 2011-12, representing an increase of around 4% above inflation since 2006/07 – the first year of the national scheme providing free travel to adults aged over 60 and some disabled users.

Meanwhile, bus firms in Scotland have faced a 21% increase in their operating costs over the past five years, while fares – not including inflation – have risen 6% during the same period, lagging behind the 10% for the rest of Britain, excluding London.