HIGH quality and affordable public services like transport are part of the fabric of a decent society. Yet our current transport system is actually tightening the grip of poverty on people’s lives. The publication of the Scottish Government’s National Transport Strategy later this week is an opportunity to put this right.

Whether young or old, in or out of work, living in urban or rural areas, for too many people across Scotland the transport system is just not working. That’s what the Poverty Alliance have been hearing for the last 18 months as we’ve been speaking to people living in poverty across Scotland’s about their experiences of the transport system. For people on low incomes, transport services in Scotland – especially buses – are simply too expensive.

The impact is profound. We’ve heard from people who are socially isolated; from people who have missed hospital appointments; and from people having to turn down jobs that require them to commute. One father even told us that his son was considering dropping out of college because he couldn’t afford the £17 a day bus fare.

When the Scottish Government publishes its National Transport Strategy this week, it should commit to making our transport more affordable and to making it work for everyone, especially people living in poverty. One way we can do that is by radically widening access to concessionary travel. For disabled and older people we know that concessionary travel can be transformative; allowing them access to opportunities they would previously have gone without.

Expanding concessionary travel to low-income workers in their first few months of employment, to people accessing the new Scottish Child Payment and to all young people would help build a transport system that works for everyone, not just those with the ability to pay.

It would ease the pressure on lone parents – predominantly women – struggling to balance the cost of childcare and transport with employment. It would help young workers in low-paid and insecure jobs, who currently spend huge proportions of their wages just getting to and from work. And it would help to create a transport system that actually helps people to stay afloat rather than pulling them under.

The National Transport Strategy will set out the Scottish Government’s vision for transport for the next 20 years. It must be bold and it must be radical. It must move the focus of our public transport – especially bus services – away from being a passive system of moving (some) people from one location to another, and towards an active public service that actually meets people’s needs and improves their lives.

Expanding concessionary travel could ease the financial pressure on people living in poverty and help them access services, training, employment and support. If we are serious about building the kind of society where we all have enough, this is the action we need.

Neil Cowan, Policy and Parliamentary Officer at The Poverty Alliance, Glasgow G2.