AN AUTISTIC Wee County man has been left feeling too afraid to use public transport following alleged bullying by a bus driver.

The distressed mother of Brad Duffy told the Advertiser her son was "bullied" by a First Bus driver, who challenged him on being exempt from wearing a face covering.

The woman, Justeen Cargill from Tillicoultry, said the two incidents at the end of November came despite the Scottish Government making clear that discrimination against people exempt from wearing coverings is "unacceptable and will not be tolerated".

She said: "He was put in a bad position by the bus driver who asked him if he's got a mask.

"My son's got Asperger's, social skill difficulties – if somebody confronts him he just finds difficult situations difficult to handle.

"It increases his anxiety and he just becomes overwhelmed."

When Brad, 22, showed his exempt badge obtained from charity Play Alloa, Justeen claimed that the bus driver responded: "Do they just hand them out to anybody?"

"My son really didn't know how to handle the situation," she continued.

"He was coming home from Alloa and he got off at Fishcross because he was quite upset about this."

The Tilly woman told the Advertiser the same bus driver caused anxiety for her son yet again, only a few days later.

She has lodged a complaint with First Bus with the company confirming to the Advertiser that it has launched an investigation.

Justeen said that when her son got on the bus during the second incident, the driver said: "Have you not got a mask yet?

"Well, sit down and don't sit near anyone."

Justeen claimed that during this incident, the bus driver beeped the horn at her son after he disembarked and tried to take a picture of his badge number to lodge a complaint, which caused further distress.

She said: "He couldn't actually think right, he could have run in front of a car because he was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety."

The woman added: "It's discrimination and bullying; it caused severe harm for my son. He's never used the bus since; he is actually scared."

David Phillips, operations director at First Glasgow, said: "I will be undertaking an investigation into the incidents raised and will interview the driver involved, I also welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter in more detail with the family.

"To clarify our standing on what our drivers are asked to do in respect of face covering compliance, if a person boards a bus without wearing a face covering, they should ask them to put one on unless they can provide evidence that they have an exemption.

"It is a legal requirement to wear a face covering when using public transport and the measure is in place to help protect all persons travelling."

However, Justeen understands differently.

She has since received an exempt card from NHS Scotland for her son, with the accompanying letter stating: "No-one should face discrimination for not wearing a face covering, nor should you have to prove you are exempt."

When face covering exemption cards were launched by the government, social security and older people secretary Shirley Anne Somerville said: "Everyone who can do so is legally obliged to wear a face covering where it is mandated by law.

"But there are some people who cannot, due to health conditions, disabilities or other special circumstances where a face covering may cause difficulty or distress.

"Discrimination against people in this situation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

Mr Phillips added: "In regard to hidden disabilities, it is very difficult for anyone to identify these unless they are brought to the attention of the person they are in communication with, in this case, these circumstances will be looked into within the investigation process."