Antisocial Behaviour on Buses

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 14 December 2023.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-11294, in the name of Graham Simpson, on antisocial behaviour on buses. The debate will be concluded without any questions being put. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak button now.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with concern reports of antisocial behaviour on buses and by those using buses throughout Scotland; acknowledges reports that people travelling using the national Young Persons’ (Under 22s) Free Bus Travel scheme have been responsible for incidents that have led to buses being withdrawn, or diverted, and notes the calls for perpetrators to have their entitlement to free travel under the scheme removed.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I thank all the members who signed the motion and look forward to hearing all the contributions.

We are having this debate on the day that the Government has issued its evaluation report into the first year of free bus travel for under-22s. Unfortunately, the end of that year was nearly a year ago, so the report is somewhat out of date. However, we should be clear that the scheme has been a success. As we heard earlier, more than 100 million journeys have been taken using it.

Parliament was and is united over the scheme. It is a good thing to encourage young people to use public transport. It is a good thing to help them get to school, college, university and work. If nothing else, it gets them into the habit of using a bus. We hope that they continue to do so once they have to pay. The Conservatives’ view is that, when they have to pay, fares should be cheaper, with a cap on how much people pay, and that payment should be simpler.

Although the free bus travel scheme for under-22s has been a success overall, there have been issues with a minority—I emphasise that it is a minority—of the young people who use it. You would expect that. Not everyone knows how to behave, and today’s report recognises that. In focus group discussions, there was evidence that 90 per cent of respondents who experienced antisocial behaviour experienced excessive loud shouting and/or swearing, and that 67 per cent of respondents who experienced antisocial behaviour experienced people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

We know that bus operators have reported issues that include physical and verbal assaults on drivers, physical and verbal assaults and threatening behaviour towards other passengers, broken windows, emergency doors being opened and damaged and vandalised buses. Damage and vandalism result in increased costs to operators, with vehicles being taken off the road for repairs. Passengers and potential passengers may be deterred from travelling by bus and, at a time when driver recruitment remains a key industry challenge, it could contribute to people leaving the industry or not joining it at all.

In addition to incidents on board buses, there is a perception that the scheme may have also contributed to increased antisocial behaviour in and around bus stations or in other locations such as shopping centres. The Scottish Government’s “Behaviour in Scottish schools: research report 2023” states:

“The ability of young people to travel for free on buses had, in some cases, led to young people travelling to other areas of the city to take part in fights or meeting up on buses and engaging in anti-social behaviour. LA representatives also raised safeguarding concerns that young people may be travelling far from their homes to meet with people without their parents’ knowledge.”

I am aware of a recent briefing for elected members in Edinburgh in which they heard of teenagers from Motherwell, Glasgow, Inverness and Fife who had been travelling to the capital to carry out antisocial behaviour using their under-22 free bus passes. Business owners, retail staff, shoppers and residents in Bruntsfield and Morningside have experienced vandalism, theft, intimidation and physical and verbal abuse. In the capital, during operation Crackle, between 3 and 5 November, Lothian Buses suffered £1,700 worth of broken windows, in just three days. Earlier this year, in Livingston, councillors claimed that the under-22 free bus pass scheme had fuelled a rise in disorder, with young people travelling to the town centre from Edinburgh and Fife intent on causing trouble. They say that it has been a particular problem on Friday afternoons, when schools have finished early.

There have also been reported issues elsewhere. The boss of the Overgate shopping centre in Dundee said that youths travelling in from outside had caused mayhem. The shopping centre suffered £80,000 of damage in 18 months. I have seen a shocking video of an horrific attack on a bus passenger in Prestwick, in which he was dragged off the bus and kicked and punched to the ground.

The issue has also been raised by other members in the chamber. In October last year, Willie Coffey raised an attack on a 14-year-old boy in Kilmarnock. The then Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, Keith Brown, said at the time:

“The Scottish Government is, of course, open to considering all options for tackling antisocial behaviour. For example, I will raise the issue with those who are responsible for the bus pass scheme, to gather views on whether the option of withdrawing bus passes, which has been mentioned elsewhere, might present a solution.”—[

Official Report

, 26 October 2022; c 19-20.]

Of course, nothing has happened, and that can have serious consequences for communities.

We have seen bus companies, quite understandably, removing services altogether. In Edinburgh, all services were removed for a night in 2021, which had the desired effect for a while—but only for a while. The Government’s argument—we will hear from the minister at the end—is that it is too difficult to remove the free travel element from the national entitlement card.

However, under the National Bus Travel Concession Scheme for Young Persons (Scotland) Order 2021, ministers can

“withdraw or suspend a travel card” if a holder allows someone else to use it or

“in such other circumstances as they may determine.”

I would have thought that committing antisocial behaviour while on a bus or after having used a bus could fall into that category. Abuse it and you should lose it.

The minister should not rule out taking action. That does not have to mean a permanent ban. She could consider suspension—members should remember that that is in the order—or perhaps a curfew. Other members may well touch on those ideas.

Some bus companies and drivers have simply given up on recording data. Lothian Buses keeps figures, which show that there has been a significant increase in antisocial behaviour since the introduction of the scheme. It is at record levels throughout the country. Operators have reported staff being assaulted, drivers being spat on, physical assaults and racial harassment. Bus companies, their staff and passengers should not have to tolerate that. If the culprits hold a free travel card, they are abusing a privilege that is paid for by the taxpayer, and that should not continue.

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I, too, welcome this debate. The issue is a very serious one that we should be discussing together, building on an important debate a number of weeks ago on considerations around antisocial behaviour in our schools.

I recognise the problem from my casework and my engagement with Lothian Buses, which is headquartered in Annandale Street in my constituency. Members may be aware that I very often take buses and other public transport. That also applies to ScotRail services for longer trips out of the city. In recent months and years, I have seen antisocial behaviour on our buses and trains, including lots of noise; feet on seats; people eating food that has odours that are not pleasant to be around; people leaving litter; people listening to music or watching television on their mobile devices without headphones; people under the influence and behaving in a way that is not respectful to those around them; and intimidation of others.

Over that time, I have seen such behaviour from a lot of people over the age of 22. I make that point because, without discounting the concerns that we have collectively in our constituencies and regions about antisocial behaviour by a minority of young people, I think that, in our country, particularly post-pandemic, there is a wider consideration that we need to think about together. We need to think carefully about solutions and behaviour change with regard to antisocial behaviour more generally. Examples that involve a minority of young people on our public transport who on occasion engage in antisocial behaviour are reported, but we collectively, as a Parliament, need to focus on antisocial behaviour more widely, the concerning increase in that behaviour, and what solutions might make a difference.

If we are going to consider the potential removal or temporary suspension of entitlement to travel cards for young people, it would be right to do so only if that also applied to people of other ages who use our public transport and have entitlement. We cannot single out young people. Although we might want to think about those solutions and keep them under review, there are wider and deeper questions that we need to ask ourselves about support for our young people, ensuring that there is adequate youth work provision, helping our young people to engage in better behaviour, and how we engage role models and popular culture to help us to encourage young people to do what the majority of young people do, which is contribute positively to society and be respectful of those around them.

This is an important debate, but let us not single out our young people. Let us keep the matter under review and think carefully about how we can make a positive difference, and let us remember the good behaviour of the majority of young people.

Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

It does not come as any surprise to see so many Lothian MSPs here today. We have the best bus service, I think, which is the envy of many across the country, but there are serious issues.

To address Mr Macpherson’s point quickly, I, too, get the bus regularly and, on Tuesday night, I was subject to what I would call antisocial behaviour targeted at me by an elderly man, who started harassing me by blowing kisses towards me and making all sorts of noises. Frankly, I did not quite know what to do, so I put my headphones on and just kept my head down. There needs to be something that all of us can do when such things happen. I thank my colleague Graham Simpson for bringing the debate to Parliament.

I spoke about what I was subjected to this week but, a number of years ago, I got on a bus on Princes Street where, quite reasonably, there were a number of youths, but they made me feel intimidated. This was on the first floor of a double decker—or the ground floor; I do not know what you call it. They were vaping quite publicly in front of people, and the bus was packed, because it was Christmas time. I asked them to stop and they proceeded to make a big show of inhaling the vapour, puffing it in my face and saying that I was exactly the sort of person who is a Karen.

Drivers and passengers on Lothian Buses should not have to endure abuse from disrespectful and intimidating youths, and we can see how such incidents could easily turn into something more serious. I was concerned about making sure that those youths got off the bus before I did, because I did not want to get off the bus and have them follow me. It was a very scary incident.

We have heard that teenagers from other parts of Scotland are using their free bus passes to come to Edinburgh to cause trouble. Police officers have recently attended a meeting with retailers in the south-west of Edinburgh to discuss a spate of antisocial behaviour in the area, and they have said that individuals are coming to the capital from Motherwell, Glasgow and Inverness, as Mr Simpson said, causing problems, criminality and antisocial behaviour. They are using their bus passes, whereas that did not happen before, because they did not have the means to get here. Unfortunately, the police said that there was nothing more that they could do to stop them.

I have heard similar concerns from two of my council colleagues in Edinburgh, who have raised concerns about youths coming to the Craigleith retail park and to Stockbridge from across the city and further afield to cause trouble. Those incidents are often organised on social media apps such as Snapchat, and the parents do not know where their children have been or where they are going.

We also heard from Graham Simpson about the situation in West Lothian, where youths were using their bus passes to go from Edinburgh and Fife to Livingston town centre. Ultimately, the centre there was closed on Friday afternoons to anyone under the age of 18, if I recall correctly. That is not where we want to be, because there are so many young people who are not abusing their bus passes. That sort of blanket ban is not helpful for anyone.

In Edinburgh, in October, several buses were forced to divert from a very busy neighbourhood. The buses were unable to serve Niddrie Mains Road and Peffermill Road for nearly two hours on a Saturday night. Imagine the impact across the entire community, on people of all ages, including those who are vulnerable and who rely on public transport in Edinburgh, which is critical to how we all get around the city. Lothian Buses has said that it has

“a zero tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour” and that it

“will not hesitate to remove services from particular areas for a period of time if necessary to keep our colleagues and customers safe”, but customers are then not able to use the services. There needs to be another way to tackle the issue.

I am conscious of time, so I will cut to the end. I am a bit of a believer in a curfew. We have young people who use the buses—in Edinburgh, they are Lothian Buses—to get to school, jobs and colleges, and I think that a curfew is the answer, rather than a cull or a ban, because we need those young people to get to school and take part in education and employment.

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

I apologise to the Deputy Presiding Officer and members in the chamber, as I will need to leave the debate early because a group of young people is waiting for me. I assure everyone that they are not caught up in any antisocial behaviour; they are very conscientious modern studies pupils.

I thank Graham Simpson for securing the debate and the members who have spoken in it. We have the usual band of suspects calmly and unflinchingly looking at the problem, which is exactly the approach that is required. It does no service to anyone to be histrionic or alarmist about the problem, nor does it do anyone any good if we do not examine in a calm manner what is going on and what we might be able to do about it. I have heard that reflected in the debate so far, which is encouraging.

We need to do a few things. We need to be clear about the problem, think about our options for dealing with it and look at who might be involved. Most importantly, however, elements of the problem are not new, as Ben Macpherson alluded to. I remember there being antisocial behaviour when I was a teenager—people smoking at the back of the bus, swearing and drawing graffiti; those sorts of things. Those are perennial problems and they are not confined only to young people. It strikes me, though, that there is an emerging problem.

Graham Simpson is right: first and foremost, we have to say that free bus travel for young people is, undoubtedly, a good thing and is empowering, but it has also led to the phenomenon of young people travelling far and wide in order to carry out antisocial behaviour. We should be clear that that does not mean that a large proportion of young people are involved; it is a small group of people. When I talk to the police, they say that such groups are measured in the dozens. As Sue Webber pointed out, that leads to consequences that impact everyone, such as bus routes being closed and under-18s being banned from leisure venues such as bowling alleys, which causes real issues in local areas. That is why I have held one meeting with the police and another with local retailers in my constituency about the problem.

It is a complex problem, and we need to look at the options for dealing with it. One issue is how the use of bus passes interacts with social media. I believe that we have to couple rights with responsibilities. It would be interesting to peel that principle apart. It might be possible to address the issue through curfews and the temporary withdrawal of bus passes. I agree that we do not want to make the situation worse by punishing people and tipping them into patterns of behaviour that might exacerbate the problem. Nonetheless, we should think about the consequences separately, because the principle is separate from the practicalities. I recognise that the two are not necessarily the same. It would be interesting to hear the minister’s views on that.

We also need to look at the broader issues. There is the issue of the balance of policing between response officers, community officers and specialist centralised divisions. More broadly, I am keen to look at what we can do to expand the range of non-criminal interventions. I am not a fan of criminalising people, but I am keen to look at what we could do that might deter and inconvenience them, by creating consequences for unacceptable behaviour.

Ben Macpherson made the point that such behaviour is part of a wider societal problem of antisocial behaviour. The problem is not confined to bus travel; retail crime and violence against retail workers are other issues. Antisocial and, at times, violent behaviour is a spiralling issue that we all need to take seriously.

Once again, I thank the Deputy Presiding Officer for his forbearance in allowing me to leave the chamber early.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am sure that the modern studies pupils will be grateful for the collective character reference that you put on the record. [

Laughter

.]

Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

I thank my colleague Graham Simpson for raising such an important issue for debate. There is no doubt that antisocial behaviour on buses has increased dramatically since the free bus travel scheme was introduced. That has been an issue locally in my region, where a community council contacted the Minister for Transport on behalf of the residents of Dundonald in South Ayrshire. Local people said:

“our village has seen a dramatic rise in youth disorder with several residents being attacked, fires being raised and many residents, some elderly and some disabled, being verbally abused and threatened by groups of youths.”

They added:

“Evidence from our area would suggest that there is a direct correlation in the rise of youth disorder and free bus travel.”

I am sure that MSPs across the chamber have similar examples from their areas of physical assaults, verbal abuse, threatening behaviour, broken windows and vandalism. In each case, there is strong evidence of a link to the free bus travel scheme.

We do not know the full extent of the problem because the Scottish National Party Government does not appear to collect the data. In responses to parliamentary questions, I have been told that it collects only general crime statistics and that an evaluation of the scheme will consider the impact of antisocial behaviour. However, the Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland, which is the trade association for the bus and coach sectors, has confirmed that

“there is no currently official data set to capture incidents of antisocial behaviour on buses.”

The Scottish Government must gain a better understanding of the problems that relate to the scheme. The SNP does not seem to want the true extent of antisocial behaviour to be uncovered, but we know that it is happening.

The Government’s “Behaviour in Scottish Schools 2023” report said:

“The ability of young people to travel for free on buses had, in some cases, led to young people traveling to other areas of the city to take part in fights or meeting up on buses and engaging in anti-social behaviour.”

We know that the Government has not acted to stop such incidents. It seems to be saying that it is powerless to prevent such crimes. Despite all the evidence of antisocial behaviour, despite the increasing costs to bus operators, despite the buses that have been taken off the roads, despite passengers being driven away from services and despite drivers being attacked—despite all that—the SNP is still not taking the issue seriously enough. It has stalled and delayed instead of finding a way to withdraw access to the scheme from the minority of people who abuse it.

I thank my colleague Graham Simpson for raising awareness of the issue. It is up to the SNP Government to act on what it has heard today.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

I apologise to members because I did not intend to speak today, but I felt compelled to contribute after hearing Graham Simpson’s completely unbalanced speech, which was backed by his colleagues, although the speeches from Ben Macpherson and Daniel Johnson were completely different.

It is fair to say that the behaviour that Mr Simpson described is not tolerable and that we should, of course, do something about it. However, Ben Macpherson is right that that behaviour is not confined to our young people—as Daniel Johnson said, such behaviour on buses and other public transport has been inherent in Scotland, and probably worldwide, for a long time.

I had expected Graham Simpson’s speech to be more balanced. I am contributing because he completely vilified and generalised about an already marginalised group in society that is without a voice—our young people.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I was very clear, as were other speakers, that we are talking about only a very small minority of people abusing the scheme. We have been very clear about that. I agree with Ben Macpherson that antisocial behaviour is not confined to young people and occurs among older people, too. I made those points in my speech, which was not unbalanced.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

I accept what Mr Simpson said, but I do not think that he was very clear. I wonder what young people and organisations that support them might have thought.

Mr Simpson might have said that we are talking about a minority, but I will develop my point about why he was not clear.

Antisocial behaviour is on the rise, as has been discussed, but that indicates that there are bigger issues in our society. My experience from my previous job before becoming an MSP tells me that, nine times out of 10, the root cause of such societal disorder is the poverty that has been caused by Mr Simpson’s United Kingdom Government. He did not mention that. Had he done so, I would not be speaking in the debate. There is a sense of hopelessness and helplessness among our young people. That does not excuse antisocial behaviour—I have said that, and I am happy to go back to that, but if we are going to have a conversation on this topic, it cannot be devoid of that point.

When Covid is added to the mix, we see that we have not experienced anything like this group of young people have. We would probably have to go back to the second world war to find a generation that has experienced such disruption to their lives, but there was no mention of that from Mr Simpson, which is why I said that he has not been clear. Had he brought in those factors, I would have thought, “Okay, it is something that he is quite passionate about, but he has made reference to those factors.”

Any actions that we take as a Government or a society must have solutions in mind. We must think about what our young people can do and what they can invest in, because they have absolutely nothing just now. Youth work is one answer. I know that that is not in Fiona Hyslop’s portfolio, but I will take the opportunity to say that youth work has to be looked at as a possible solution in the upcoming budget. We could enhance youth work services, because when youth work is done well, it keeps young people away from getting involved in bother.

I put my money where my mouth is. I have been contacted by supermarkets in my constituency that experience antisocial behaviour. It is not the same behaviour that happens on buses—I agree—but it is still antisocial behaviour. I have called meetings for early in the new year, but I have been very clear when bringing in agencies and organisations that the meetings will not vilify young people.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

I am almost out of time—sorry.

W e have to find solutions. Councils and other people need to find solutions for our young people. As I said, I did not intend to speak, but I am glad that I have, because it is important that young people’s voices are heard in this Parliament. I accept that Ben Macpherson and Daniel Johnson made that point, but I had already pressed my request-to-speak button by that point. It is important that we view the issue in the context that it deserves, because it is a serious problem. Folk should not need to put up with such issues on public transport, but we need to view it in the round, and young people’s voices need to be heard, too.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

As other members have said, many of us have heard about examples in our constituencies of young people travelling around to cause havoc under the Scottish Government’s free bus travel scheme for those aged under 22. I recognise, as my colleagues have, that we are talking about a minority of young people. We accept that the behaviour is not confined to young people, and we are looking to find remedies to manage the behaviour of a minority of people. We are not talking about the wider benefits for young people that the scheme has brought.

I wish to raise only one point; I recently wrote to the cabinet secretary detailing a recent incident at Deeside Rugby Football Club, in which I have long had an interest. A group of teenagers had travelled out from Aberdeen, taking advantage of the SNP’s free bus travel scheme, but with no productive or beneficial purpose in mind. They barged into the clubhouse, banged on the windows and threw insults at members. They moved on to other facilities in the area, including the church, and were clearly intent only on a trouble-making spree.

Due to social media trends, there is an increase in such behaviour, and a minority of young people are travelling simply to cause carnage in areas that they previously could not access. That is all happening at the same time as our rural communities are being disadvantaged by low police numbers and station closures. Police officers across the north-east are stretched thin enough and simply do not have the resources to respond to those vandals, who are out only to cause disruption and havoc.

I join my colleagues in asking the Scottish Government what repercussions it will put in place to deter the rising trend in antisocial behaviour by a small minority, and what it will do to support Police Scotland to keep our communities safe from that kind of behaviour.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I also thank Graham Simpson for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I thank everyone who has taken part for their very thoughtful contributions. I appreciate members’ support for the very popular and much-used policy of free bus travel for under-22s. I will be very clear at the outset that the vast majority of young people use their free bus pass travel responsibly.

I will start by outlining the very important benefits that the young persons free bus travel scheme is delivering. This morning, I visited Wester Hailes high school to celebrate more than 100 million bus journeys having been made through the scheme since its launch. I had the pleasure of hearing directly from young people about how free bus travel is opening doors for them, helping their families to save money and embedding sustainable travel choices for the next generation. Those young pupils told me that they could go to more sports training sessions and improve performance, get part-time jobs and visit family members, including their grandparents, more often.

Today sees the publication of the evaluation of the scheme, which shows that it is reducing travel costs, encouraging a shift towards public transport from private car use, and improving access to social, leisure, education and employment opportunities. That is encouraging and important progress during the cost of living crisis and the global climate emergency. I am sure that members will all join me in encouraging young people across Scotland who have not yet applied to do so now, and to join the more than 700,000 under-22s who are already benefiting.

Although it is important to remember that the vast majority of young people are using the scheme appropriately, it is not my intention to minimise the concerns that are being raised today, which deserve attention and collective action. Antisocial behaviour is unacceptable in all contexts. I am grateful to members for sharing how their constituents have been impacted, and I note the number of Edinburgh and Lothian MSPs who have spoken today. Everyone has the right to travel safely, and I recognise some of the issues that members have spoken about, which involve unacceptable behaviour by a minority in our society. I think that it was appropriate that Fulton MacGregor tried to address the issues that underlie antisocial behaviour; his was a considered contribution.

The Scottish Government is committed to tackling all antisocial behaviour. We want everyone to be and to feel safe in their community, but no single approach will tackle every incident. That is why we support a range of options, which includes a strong focus on positive diversionary and early intervention activities, as appropriate, alongside use of formal warnings, fixed-penalty notices and antisocial behaviour orders.

However, we must remember that the police, local authorities and other local agencies are responsible for tackling antisocial behaviour at the local level, through working with communities, including young people and their carers. Partnership working among the agencies can be very successful in tackling incidents involving buses.

An example of that is the effective work to tackle antisocial behaviour in Kilmarnock bus station through on-going collaboration between the local council and the health and social care partnership. East Ayrshire Council’s youth action team continues to engage with young people, and a multi-agency resilience group meets fortnightly to monitor intelligence and community concerns regarding the bus station and the town centre. I am reassured that that approach continues to support safety in the local community.

Although the young persons free bus travel scheme changes how travel is paid for, it does not affect operators’ conditions of carriage, which all passengers must follow. I encourage anyone who witnesses antisocial behaviour to notify bus operators or their local council’s antisocial behaviour team and, of course, to report all criminal behaviour to Police Scotland.

We all agree that there is no easy solution that will reduce the number of incidents of the type that we have heard about today. Members have raised the possibility of removing national entitlement cards from young people who are implicated in antisocial behaviour. However, free bus travel is just one of several services that are provided through the card.

There is also a real issue in respect of how and when entitlement would be removed, and I do not believe that it would be appropriate for our bus drivers to do that. I assure members that I have asked officials to look at what temporary digital blocking measures could be used, but I understand that that would require police time and co-operation on identification of offending individuals, increased administrative time and expertise, and technological fixes that are not yet apparent.

Nonetheless, I undertake to advise members what might be possible, but I also—to emphasise Ben Macpherson’s point—want to be clear that it would not be age specific, because antisocial behaviour occurs in the population generally.

In addition, the legislation underpinning the current national concession travel scheme does not provide a clear mechanism for consideration of removal of travel cards for antisocial behaviour. It states that Scottish ministers may withdraw or suspend a travel card

“if an eligible person of any age knowingly allows their travel card to be used by another person” or

“in such other circumstances as they may determine” as Graham Simpson said.

It is required that each case be considered on its own merits, but given the nature of the scheme and the original purpose of the powers, which did not include dealing with antisocial behaviour, there will be limits to what can be done. Again, police time and co-operation would be required, and there might be complex interactions with other agencies and frameworks that are specifically tasked with dealing with antisocial conduct. I will continue to look at what might be possible and appropriate in providing a deterrent or sanction, including looking into some of the suggestions that have been made by colleagues.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I welcome the minister saying that she commits to looking at the matter and coming back to Parliament, or to having discussions in the same manner in which the debate has been conducted.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I have been looking at the matter, which is why I am relaying that to Parliament today. I recognise that there will be ongoing interest in the subject.

We will not succeed in reducing antisocial behaviour by focusing on bus-related incidents and neglecting the root causes. During the past year, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Community Safety Network engaged nationally to build a robust picture of antisocial behaviour. The findings from that—“Reviewing Scotland's Approach to Antisocial Behaviour”—were published on 7 November. The review recommends focus on prevention through a long-term sustainable strategic approach. An independent working group on antisocial behaviour has been set up and will report to ministers by the end of 2024. Transport Scotland will engage closely with that group.

Last week, I took part in 16 days of activism against gender-based violence with a workshop on women and girls’ safety on public transport. Together with more than 40 stakeholders, we discussed making improvements for women and girls.

I thank everyone for their valuable contributions. I assure members that the Government and its partners are working to tackle the issues that have been raised. The findings of the young person’s free bus travel scheme that were published today will inform that. I will work with bus operators and other key partners to ensure that negative behaviour does not overshadow the truly transformative impact that free bus travel is having and will continue to have. As the young people at Wester Hailes high school said to me today, it gives them more chances, more choices and more opportunities, and it helps to change lives. Let us ensure that the experience of the majority is not harmed by the experience of the very small minority.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes the debate.

13:27 Meeting suspended.

14:30 On resuming—