MSPs win promise from ministers to look again at air discount scheme reform

The Scottish government has promised to look again at the legal argument made for the removal of business travel from the air discount scheme (ADS).

Ministers will also consider carefully the evidence of its impact on island businesses and voluntary and public bodies, which Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur plan to collect this summer.

At a meeting with cabinet secretary for infrastructure Alex Neil and minister for housing and transport Keith Brown, Mr Scott and Mr McArthur outlined how the loss of the discount was damaging businesses and voluntary and public bodies in the islands.

They questioned the legal reason given by the ministers for the sudden exclusion of business travel from the scheme.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr McArthur said: “Tavish and I plan to undertake surveys of businesses, and voluntary and public bodies in our respective constituencies over the summer, finding out just what the impact of the loss of the discount is. Feedback we have each already received suggests that the change is causing real problems. The ministers undertook to look carefully at the results of our surveys. We each plan to issue survey forms shortly. The more we get back, the stronger the case we can make.”

Mr Scott added: “The ministers also agreed to look again at the legal case on which they based their exclusion of business travel from the Air Discount Scheme. I have never accepted that there was a legal problem. The scheme, including business travel, has run without challenge since I started it in 2006. It has twice been cleared by the European Commission.

“The agreement to look again at the issue is a softening of the government line. Up until now, they have refused to accept that their case is anything but cast iron. We have some way to go before we get the government to agree to undo their damaging cut to the ADS, but these are a useful couple of first steps in the right direction.”


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