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£250k-a-year on flights

The SIC spends around £250,000 a year on flights out of the islands. Photo: John Moncrieff

FLIGHTS to and from the islands for Shetland Islands Council members and officials cost just under quarter of a million pounds in the last financial year.

Figures provided by the local authority following a Freedom of Information request from Shetland News show that £247,949.67 was spent in 2014/15 on travel that did not go beyond Scotland.

The amount the SIC spends on travelling via Loganair/Flybe is relatively modest in comparison to NHS Shetland, which regularly has to send patients to the mainland for treatment.

In the last financial year, the health board spent some £2.3 million – more than four per cent of its annual budget – on buying medical flights from Loganair, which last year announced profits of £6 million.

Those figures emerged in the wake of a strong campaign seeking lower airfares to the Scottish islands, which has attracted the support of 15,000 people on its Facebook page.

A council spokeswoman stressed that the Air Discount Scheme (ADS) – entitling passengers to a 40 per cent discount on fares (not including taxes) – does not apply to SIC travel.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and others have urged the SNP Government to re-include business travel within the scope of ADS since the scheme was altered back in 2010.

“All trips outwith Shetland must be authorised, in accordance with the council’s travel policy,” an SIC spokeswoman said.

“The policy seeks to ensure the most efficient travel arrangements are booked to reduce costs. We seek to make use of video conferencing wherever possible; however there are times when personal attendance is required. 

She added: “The figure includes costs for flights processed on behalf of children’s services, of which a number are refunded by the Scottish Government.”