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Transport / Air Discount Scheme extended until March 2026

Photo: Shetland News

THE GOVERNMENT programme which subsidises air fares for islanders has been extended by a further five years until March 2026.

First introduced by former local MSP Tavish Scott when he was transport minister in a Labour/Lib Dems coalition in 2007, the air discount scheme (ADS) pays for 50 per cent of air fares within Scotland for island residents and those living in remote mainland communities.

Cabinet secretary for transport Michael Matheson said the scheme plays a vital part in keeping remote communities connected.

“It will no doubt have an important part to play as we look to ease the Covid-19 restrictions in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

“The scheme will remain open to all the eligible areas and students at the seven colleges within them.

“This announcement directly tackles the issue of high air fares in the Highlands and Islands and underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting our remote communities.”

The news was welcomed by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart who earlier on Wednesday had raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament.

“I am glad to see that the Scottish Government has finally given clarity to the much-needed Air Discount Scheme. It is a vital scheme that was first introduced in 2007 by then Transport Secretary and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and at that time included discount on business travel.

“I have been asking for an update on the continuation of scheme for several months so it is good to see my questions now answered.

“I believe that it is a minimum requirement that this support exists for islands, and I will continue to argue for further support for Shetland’s transport needs from the Scottish Government.”

ADS gives 50 per cent discount on core air fares for residents of Caithness and parts of Sutherland, Colonsay, Islay, Jura, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles on eligible routes.

It applies to students from these areas who are studying away from home. Students studying in the eligible areas, but whose main residence is elsewhere, are also included in the scheme.