Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) secured a confirmation from the First Minister that the Air Discount Scheme will continue beyond this year.
During First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur highlighted that the scheme has benefited thousands of people across the Highlands and Islands since it was introduced in 2006 by then Liberal Democrat Transport Minister and Shetland MSP, Tavish Scott.
He went on to warn that the scheme is due to end on 31 December 2020 and there had yet to be confirmation from the Scottish Government about its extension. Orkney’s MSP therefore called on the First Minister to provide immediate clarity on the future of ADS.
In response, the First Minister confirmed the Scottish Government’s ongoing support for the scheme and gave a commitment to Mr McArthur that she would provide details of how the scheme was to be extended “later in the day”.
Commenting on the response, Mr McArthur said:
“Cost of air travel to and from the islands has always been relatively high, which is why Tavish Scott worked so hard to introduce the Air Discount Scheme back in 2006. Since then, the scheme has helped thousands of islanders by reducing the cost of accessing our lifeline air services.
“The current Scottish Government has continued to support the scheme, even though SNP Ministers took the decision in 2011 to remove business-related travel from being eligible.
“However, with the scheme due to run out at the end this year, there has been understandable and growing concern about its future. In the absence of any statement from the government, I felt it was important to seek confirmation from the First Minister that she intends to fund ADS into the future.
“I’m therefore pleased that the First Minister has put fears to rest in response to my question and look forward to seeing more details of the government’s plans shortly. As the UK leaves the EU next month, it may be that aspects of the scheme need to change, but it seems clear that this will not affect those in Orkney and elsewhere who will continue to benefit from the fare reductions”.