The Air Discount Scheme (ADS) run by the Scottish government is to increase to 50 per cent from 40 per cent on bookings made after 1st January next year.
The decision, revealed during today’s islands debate at Holyrood by Scottish transport minister Derek Mackay, was welcomed by both local and national politicians.
The SIC has been involved in the Our Islands Our Future (OIOF) campaign while MSP Tavish Scott has consistently lobbied over the issue and has also called on the government to think again over excluding business bookings from the scheme.
SIC political leader Gary Robinson said the OIOF campaign had built a strong working relationship with the government, based on mutual respect and sound arguments.
He said: “I’m very pleased that progress has been made on this issue. The islands’ leaders met with Derek Mackay at the Convention of the Highlands and Islands in Elgin yesterday where transport was firmly on the agenda.
“The convener of Orkney Islands Council, Steven Heddle, and the convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Norman Macdonald and I were able to impress upon the government the need for further intervention to support our vital air services.
“While this is a major step forwards, much still needs to be done to secure reliable and affordable transport links to the islands. We will continue to lobby at all levels of government and in Europe in order to achieve this.”
Mr Scott said air fares were a huge factor for islanders travelling to the Scottish mainland and therefore the increase in ADS was good.
He added: “It is what islanders have been pressing for. I hope the Scottish government will now reverse their earlier decision to cut back on the eligibility for the scheme. This has not helped working people across Shetland.
“So I will continue to make the case for the full ADS to be implemented by this government. That would be the progress we need.”