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LibDems mount air discount campaign

NORTHERN isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur are calling on their highlands and islands colleagues in Holyrood to join their demand for a review of government cuts to the air discount scheme (ADS).

There has been an outcry throughout the region since the SNP administration last year withdrew business travel from the 40 per cent discount scheme that was introduced in 2006 by Mr Scott when he was transport minister in the Labour-LibDem coalition.

There is anger the scheme was changed without consultation, hitting business and public sector organisations, including the voluntary sector, hard.

Now Orkney MSP Mr McArthur is upping the pressure on the government to find other ways of saving money by tabling a parliamentary motion calling for the decision to be reviewed.

Critics have commented that while businesses living in the central belt use highly subsidised rail and bus systems, and ferry services to the Scottish isles are supported by the state, business air travellers in remote parts of Scotland are being penalised.

Mr McArthur said the changes had imposed “a considerable financial burden on island life” and forced organisations and business travellers to miss important meetings on the mainland.

“So far my motion has attracted cross-party support, with the exception of the SNP. I hope all those elected to serve highlands and islands constituencies and the region will recognise the importance of persuading the Scottish government to think again,” Mr McArthur said.

Mr Scott added that many people had raised their concerns about the matter. “A review would show just how serious the impact of the cut is for island organisations,” he said.

“I cannot understand how the SNP can justify taking away this badly needed support from islanders in Shetland, Orkney and the western isles. Liam’s motion is just the first of the many ways this issue is going to be raised.”

In January the SNP brought the community of the island of Colonsay into the scheme prior to requesting the European Union to extend it until 2015.