SCOTTISH transport minister Keith Brown has agreed to write to the European Commission to seek clarification on the air discount scheme (ADS) following a meeting with the three islands council conveners.
The minister met Orkney Islands Council convener Stephan Hagan and the leaders of Shetland Islands Council, Josie Simpson, and Western Isles Council, Angus Campbell, in Edinburgh on Thursday night.
The minister agreed to write to the EC to clarify:
whether the ADS scheme, under EU legislation, can include business travel;
if discounted travel for the voluntary sector can be included if business related travel remains excluded;
whether special permission can be granted for the scheme to operate again as it did before 1 April 2011, when the exclusion of business travel was introduced.
Following the meeting Mr Hagan said: “Today’s discussion was very helpful and informative, with a comprehensive exchange of views as to why the islands councils feel ADS needs to be looked at again on behalf of our communities.
“I feel the minister is now fully informed of the importance of affordable travel for businesses and public and voluntary organisations in the remote areas of Scotland and that we have given him a good basis on which to challenge the current state of play.”
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said he had been given similar assurances three months ago, but nothing had happened.
“I welcome the fact that this meeting has taken place. This follows a similar meeting Mr Brown and the cabinet secretary, Alex Neil, had with Tavish Scott and I at the end of June.
“However, at that stage the cabinet secretary gave an undertaking to check out whether or not the EU would have any issue with business travel being retained within the air discount scheme.
“Given Mr Brown’s comments, it begs the question what on earth has the transport minister been doing for the last three months?
“The feedback to the survey Tavish and I have been undertaking over the summer shows the real hardship the SNP’s decision to cut ADS is causing to local businesses, voluntary groups, charities and public bodies in Orkney and Shetland.
Like me, they will be wondering why the Minister has taken three months to come up with the same promises and no action,” he said.
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