ADS cuts damaging to local communities

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott with the ADS survey - Photo: James Stewart

Business and charities in Shetland are being hit hard by the loss of the Air Discount Scheme (ADS), a survey commissioned by isles MSP Tavish Scott has found.

The vast majority of organisations surveyed said the changes to the ADS scheme had forced them to change the way they operate.

They also said that they had not been aware of the changes to the ADS scheme until contacted by the local MSP.

As transport minister, Mr Scott was largely responsible for the introduction of the ADS in 2006.

Providing a 40 per cent discount, the scheme was an effort to tackle air high fares on lifeline services between Scottish islands and mainland Scotland.

In April 2011, the Scottish Government removed the discount from journeys undertaken by businesses, the public sector and voluntary organisations.

In response, Mr Scott and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur commissioned a survey in order to unearth the impact of this decision on island communities.

The two Lib-Dem MSPs now hope to be able to present the results to Scottish government ministers Keith Brown and Alex Neil in an attempt to persuade them to reverse the decision.

But transport minister Keith Brown is already on record saying ADS was not designed to help stimulate economic activity.

The Shetland survey received 57 responses, representing 1817 employees and 239 volunteers, and found that the majority of businesses had to either increase their transport budgets or simply cut down on the quantity of flights.

Those who had to increase their travelling budgets had to do so by an average of £2,700, while the 30 per cent of organisations who said they could not afford to spend more on air travel have either been forced to take the boat or miss vital meetings and conferences.

One of the survey’s respondents said: “It is difficult enough to market goods outside Shetland – travel, hotels, extra time involved – without this latest increase in costs.”

Another echoed those sentiments by saying: “The loss of the ADS support for business flights is going to have a big negative impact and may mean we have to scale back our ambitions”.

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.

James Stewart