A survey into the unpopular changes to the air discount scheme (ADS) which prevent businesses and charities from benefiting from discounted travel to the mainland has been released.
The findings in the survey commissioned by isles MSP Tavish Scott show 57 responses – representing 1,817 employees and 239 volunteers – are now not eligible for the 40 per cent fare reductions on business-related flights.
Of the organisations which gave a figure, an average of £5,134.28 was spent on flights in the year prior to the ADS cuts, with an average of 23.6 flights taken by each group.
But 86 per cent of respondents said they would have to cut the number of flights they take as a direct result of the cuts to ADS. While some groups believed their travel budget would have to increase to compensate for the changes to ADS (31.6 per cent), over a third of respondents (36.8 per cent) complained that they had no money to allow for such increases and their businesses would suffer as a result.
More than half were not aware of the changes to ADS eligibility before they came into effect in April and 84 per cent were still unclear how the changes to ADS will be enforced.
The findings come after the Scottish government poured cold water on hopes the changes, introduced in April, could be reversed. Transport minister Keith Brown had agreed to seek clarification on whether the scheme could include business travel under EU legislation. But last week he insisted ADS was never meant to cover passengers flying south on business.
Tavish Scott and his Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur hope to meet the Scottish government minister before Christmas to present the survey findings.
Mr Scott said: “The Scottish government say they will listen to evidence and a good argument. Shetland has produced the evidence – 86 per cent of local voluntary and charitable bodies and businesses are hit by the cuts to ADS.
“I want the Scottish government to reverse their decision, taken without any consultation, because ADS was introduced to help the social and economic future of the islands. Nothing has changed about that argument.”
Copies of the ADS Survey findings can be obtained by contacting The Shetland Parliamentary Office, 171 Commercial Street, Lerwick or calling (01595) 690044 during office hours.