A travel smartcard similar to London's Oyster card will be trialled in Scotland in the hope of making public transport cheaper and simpler, the Infrastructure Secretary has announced.
The new Saltire Card could make public transport "more attractive and possibly cheaper", Nicola Sturgeon said.
The Scottish Government wants all journeys on bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks to be taken using some form of smart ticketing or payment. The smartcard allows operators to collect more personal information about customers and increase their marketing opportunities. It will also offer passengers more ways to pay for their travel and is designed to appeal to tourists to make it easier to travel round the country.
In March 2011 government travel body Transport Scotland (TS) found a "limited appetite" for integrated ticketing among operators amid concerns that these benefits may not be achievable in a deregulated market. These concerns have "mainly reduced" since then, TS said.
All of Scotland's 7,100 buses are already equipped with smart-ticketing machines to administer free bus passes for pensioners and disabled people, although there have been concerns about the quality and speed of repairs by suppliers.
Ms Sturgeon said: "While we are aware that there is still some substantial work to do on this proposal, we are now taking the first steps towards achieving this vision by launching a series of demonstrator schemes with a number of operators and public sector partners throughout the country.
"Bus operators are already smartcard-enabled and many are already working in partnership with TS to see how they can fully realise the benefits of the technology and how they can integrate with other operators to share those benefits with passengers."
The Scottish Government's concessionary travel system is the biggest smart ticketing scheme outside of London, with more than one million cardholders and 146 million journeys per year. On rail, TS has worked with First ScotRail to deliver the largest rail smart ticketing pilot in the UK while smart ticketing will be a key element of the new franchise from 2014.
The Scottish Government cannot deliver smart ticketing on its own, so TS is working with operators, local authorities and regional transport partnerships on demonstrator projects.
The announcement was welcomed by sustainable transport lobbyists Transform Scotland. Public transport campaigner Calum McCallum said: "Commencing with a pre-paid ticket is a reasonable first step. However, we'll be keen to see the Saltire Card expand to incorporate season tickets. A key first step will be a day-ticket for all public transport in Glasgow in time for the Commonwealth Games."