Free bus pass causing youth disorder say councillors

Wednesday March 8th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

Free bus passes for teenagers are fuelling anti-social behaviour in shopping centres such as Livingston, local councillors claimed this week.

Police said they believed youths were travelling into the area from as far away as Fife with ‘intent to commit assult’, while councillors said some of the incidents at the centre had been “brutal”.

And they asked what could be done to restrict the free travel of youngsters with ‘malicious intent’.

A community police constable faced questions in two local area committees about teenagers travelling for free to Livingston centre to engage in anti social behaviour.

In the East Livingston local area committee Councillor Damian Doran-Timson, Conservative group leader on the council, told PC Ewan Hannay:

“The issues they are having at the Livingston centre. It’s termed anti-social behaviour but it’s worse to my mind. People are travelling with the new free bus travel from Edinburgh and from Fife to come into the centre and causing the behaviour.

“Sometimes free things aren’t good.

“What can be done to prevent this happening in the first place?

Constable Hanny told the meeting: “Part of the issue is we’re not seeing any issues on that transport – because Livingston is a central hub that’s why we are seeing these issues developing .

“I have spoken to some of the security previously at the centre, and I think there could be lessons on both sides”

He said the security staff in the centre were “robust” in dealing with youth disorder and added “we are there to try and support them where we can.”

Friday afternoons have seen incidents, when most schools have finished early.

The police outlined Gateway Checks, designed to curb vandalism on buses, in their report:

“Officers used the bus network from outlying towns and villages that were destined for our larger town centres such as Livingston and Bathgate where regular complaints of youth ASB are being reported. Officers positively interacted with young people whilst using the bus network.”

Speaking at the Linlithgow local Area Committee later the same day, veteran Labour councillor Tom Conn said: “It highlights how mobile youths are now with the Under 22 bus pass and some incidents which have taken place at the retail centre Livingston are pretty brutal and clearly that needs to be addressed.

“What can Police Scotland do to stop the free movement of youths who have malicious intent.”

Constable Hannay said:

“In terms of restricting travel, it’s not something we can really do. We can’t sit on the bus and discourage youths from travelling all the time. The kids are always going to come because it’s a desirable place.”

He added that police have spoken to security staff and asked for footage to try to identify culprits who would then be spoken to in the presence of their parents.

Councillor Conn said: “My understanding with the problems with the retail centre was that youths were coming from Fife with intent with a plan to commit assault.

“The Under 22 bus pass seems to have opened up opportunities and travel costs are not a barrier to moving further afield. It seems to be the unintended consequence of having a free bus pass. I don’t want to see it happening in Linlithgow or anywhere else in West Lothian.”

Graeme Struthers the lead council official for the Linlithgow committee said: “My understanding is that there are people coming from outwith West Lothian. There have been meetings with the centre and Police Scotland and there have also been meetings with representatives from the council. There’s been various council activities working with the centre and with Police Scotland as well.”

Speaking after the meeting Councillor Doran-Timson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service:

“It’s extremely disappointing and concerning that youths from both outside West Lothian and across West Lothian are using their ‘free bus passes’ to travel to the centre at Livingston and cause trouble upsetting shoppers. This situation is totally unacceptable and I hope the police deal with this in the manner it requires.

“Shoppers and retailers should not have to put up with this anti-social behaviour and those responsible must be made aware we will not accept this in Livingston.”

Livingston shopping centre was contacted for a comment.

A senior Livingston police officer, Inspector Brendan McMahon said : “We know that anti-social behaviour in our local communities causes concern.

“For this very reason I am appealing to parents to assist us in taking an interest into where their children have been and who they are with. Positive engagement with young people is key to reducing incidents and we work closely with local schools in an effort to deter this type of behaviour.

“Anyone with any concerns should call police on 101 or speak to any police officer. Alternatively information can be passed anonymously via the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Tweet Share on Facebook  

Subscribe to the Midlothian View newsletter

Support Midlothian View from as little as £1. It only takes a minute. Thank you.

Comments are closed.