Heavy criticism has been levelled at the Scottish government’s unpopular plans to curb the Air Discount Scheme (ADS) by denying it to business users and public sector organisations.
Members of the council’s transport partnership ZetTrans today came out against the proposals, aimed at saving £1.4 million from the £10.1 million ADS budget from April.
Local business groups have already condemned the plans – announced in December – insisting business in the isles will suffer once the incentive is withdrawn.
Head of transport Michael Craigie said the measure was beginning to look like a fait accompli, especially as it was now included in the draft budget due to go before the Scottish Parliament.
“We’ve been approached by some in the private sector expressing concern about the additional burden the plans will have on them,” he said. “There needs to be an expression of concern to the government about the impact this measure will have.”
Allan Wishart said it was important to fight for the retention of the full ADS, particularly as it had been designed in the first place to provide business with a boost.
He suggested the committee write to the new transport minister, Keith Brown, to reflect the “deep concern” felt by members of the partnership. “One of the main purposes of ADS was to promote business,” he said.
Responding to questions by Mr Wishart, director of public health at NHS Shetland, Dr Sarah Taylor, said the measure would not impact on patient travel outwith the isles. However, she said it would affect staff travelling to the mainland.
North Isles member Robert Henderson said businesses in the isles had very little choice compared with their counterparts in Scotland – people either caught the plane or relied on a lengthy ferry journey, he added.
“It’s not fair of the government to penalise businesses in Shetland just because they need to use the service.”
Caroline Miller echoed comments made last year by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott over how the measure could work in practice.
“How is this going to be policed? How is it going to be monitored? I could just book a fare down to Edinburgh in my own name,” she said.