Charities in the isles are struggling to make their voice heard nationally after being excluded from the Air Discount Scheme as part of the government’s cost-cutting measures.
Voluntary organisations were lumped together with businesses when the ADS system was reformed earlier this year.
Charity representatives are reluctant to use their own personal ADS numbers when flying south in case it threatens the status of the bodies they represent.
They are faced with a choice of paying the full fare for an air ticket, or staying put in the isles.
The problem was raised by Voluntary Action Shetland’s executive officer, Catherine Hughson, at today’s meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum at Islesburgh Community Centre.
She said more “clarity” was needed on the matter to help charities go about their business in a way that wasn’t wasteful of vital funds.
“Because we’re charities we’re now having to pay business rates for any travel to the mainland,” she said.
“We don’t want to use our personal ADS scheme in case we are found to be in default in using it to purchase tickets. We’re needing clarity on it.
“It makes travel for us far more expensive. For voluntary organisations and charities, we don’t have an awful lot of money to travel south with anyway.
“The more we can use the discount scheme the better it is for us, because then we can be included.
“The way it is at the moment we can’t put Shetland’s perspective on national debates, because we can’t get there.”
Heavy criticism was levelled at the previous Scottish government’s curbing of ADS earlier this year, aimed at slicing £1.4 million from the £10.1 million ADS budget from April.
Business groups condemned the plans, and there were also fears it would impact on public sector travel budgets at the council, NHS and other bodies.