The statistics bulletin from the Scottish Executive, based on an annual survey in March, said that 146,611 pupils - or 19.5 per cent of education authority pupils - had free transport. There has been barely any change in the past four years. In primary, 11 per cent of pupils had free transport compared with 28 per cent of secondary youngsters who have further to travel.
There was the usual variation between authorities, reflecting the greater distances to be travelled in rural areas. The highest proportion of primary pupils receiving free transport was in Orkney, 45 per cent, while it was a mere 0.1 per cent in Dundee.
In the secondary sector, the figures soar to 79 per cent of Western Isles pupils taken to school free, way beyond the next highest area - 57 per cent of Shetland's pupils. Again, Dundee had the smallest number at 0.9 per cent.