Letter from Edinburgh

This past week has been schools, shipping, air services, oh and the budget.

The general election is just weeks away so the chancellor took no tough decisions on Wednesday. Instead he put everything off until after the election.

People locally and across the UK will decide if that approach, or being open and specific about the real state of the British economy, is a fairer approach. What the chancellor cer­tainly didn’t provide was any clarity about cuts in public expenditure and how that would affect Scotland.

That matters nearer to home. The reason that the Scottish government is making NorthLink impose regres­sive changes to Shetland’s services and fares is public spending cuts. And the reason why car parking charges are being proposed for Sum­burgh is that the Scottish government is cutting funding for airports.

So until the government changes in Edinburgh as well as London – to one that fairly supports island com­munities – we face a difficult period. That’s why I met SIC elected mem­bers this week on both shipping and Sumburgh issues. I want to make sure that there is a strong approach to the government on these issues.

At the meeting of the Sumburgh Airport Consultative Committee on Tuesday, Loganair’s representative talked about the extra services the airline, flying in Flybe colours, plans for the summer.

I’ve been asking Loganair about air fares. What I didn’t know was that there is a requirement by the Advertising Standards Agency that at least 10 per cent of any seats sold on a particular airline route must be for the cheapest fare advertised. That means an average of just over three seats on each 34-seat Saab flight although no doubt there will be more than that on the less popular flights and fewer on the busy ones.

A different question would be: how does the AAA check this? The Sumburgh to Edinburgh cheapest one-way fare is £57 without ADS and £40.05 with ADS. But unless you try to find these fares at least four to six weeks in advance they’ve gone. And no wonder.

So the message is: if you can book early – do so. But the cheapest fare only applies to 10 per cent of the seats available on the route. And cheapest? I would be delighted to find fares for under £100 return for family and friends but as yet no luck – there must be many people who are far better organised than me.

I wanted to get President Obama into this somewhere. So I talked about his landmark change to health care in the USA at a meeting with the Anderson High School’s sixth year on Monday.

At a time when politics is dif­ficult, Obama proved that big change can happen. He defeated the massed ranks of the US insurance industry, which funds the opposition Repub­licans, in a move that will give 41 million Americans healthcare for the first time. So change has come to America, and I hope it comes here too.

Tavish Scott MSP


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