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News round-up / Starring role for NorthLink, ADS scheme extended and dates announced for air traffic strike

THE AIR discount scheme (ADS) which subsidises air fares for islanders and those in remote communities has been extended until the end of next year.

The scheme, that provides eligible travellers with a 50 per cent discount on core air fares, has also had its area of coverage extended.

Scottish cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity Michael Matheson said: “We know the Air Discount Scheme is very popular and plays a vital role in keeping our remote communities connected, so I’m delighted we can announce its renewal and extension.

“The eligibility area has been widened to include the entire Caithness postcode, as well as further parts of Sutherland, so more people than ever will be able to access cheaper air fares.

“We also want to encourage people to come to these areas to study, so students at the seven colleges within the eligible areas will now also be able to sign up to the scheme.”

But Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur criticised the scheme for not lasting for four years, as in previous installments and not covering business passengers.

A date has been set for strike action for Highlands and Islands Airport Limited air traffic controllers belonging to the Prospect union.

The controllers, including those at Sumburgh will be striking on 26 April over a disputed 2018-19n pay offer and other industrial action will commence on 1 April and is set to continue till 31 August.

This will include instruction to work to rosters; refusal of non-medical extensions; an overtime ban; and withdrawal of good will.

Airports that will be directly affected also included Dundee, Inverness, Wick, Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Stornoway, and Benbecula.

Prospect will also seek to agree a protocol with HIAL to ensure cover for emergency incidents during the period of the strike.

Prospect negotiations officer David Avery said: “Prospect members have agreed to delay any strike action until after the Scottish school holidays have concluded. Our members do not want to stop their friends and neighbours visiting their families during the school holidays.

“I urge HIAL and Scottish Ministers to use the additional time members have given them to bring forward real proposals to resolve the dispute rather than the same offer which has already been rejected twice.”

Earlier Northern Isles MSPs Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott urged transport secretary Michael Matheson to “do everything possible to bring both sides together in a bid to avoid this damaging industrial action taking place”.

A letter from Orkney MSP McArthur says: “The potential disruption … any such action is likely to have on lifeline services to/from Orkney and other airports affected would be significant”.

Scott will seek to raise these concerns with the First Minister later this week.

NORTHLINK Ferries is set to star in a new STV documentary on Friday (8 March), providing viewers across the country with a unique insight into life on board the company’s passenger services.

Titled All Aboard and broadcast at 8pm, the 30 minute programme follows MV Hrossey as she travels between Aberdeen and Lerwick. It will focus on the roles of crewmembers and offer a glimpse into island life and those of travellers.

Serco NorthLink managing director Stuart Garrett said: “We are extremely excited to be starring in All Aboard. This is a great opportunity for  viewers to see the hard work that goes into maintaining an award-winning service, the range of roles that our crew manage and of course hear some really interesting stories from our passengers.”

All Aboard is part of This is Scotland, a documentary and new talent initiative run by the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI) in association with Screen Scotland.