Orkney MSP Liam McArthur used First Minister's Questions today to urge the First Minister to accept the “compelling” case for isles businesses to get access Air Discount Scheme support.
Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (Hitrans), working with islands councils, commissioned a study in the summer which examined extending ADS to businesses in the region, following the Scottish Government’s decision in 2011 to remove ADS support from business-related travel without any prior consultation. Hitrans’ report confirms the adverse impact that this has had, prompting Mr McArthur to call on the First Minister to “overturn this earlier wrong-headed decision.”
Responding, the First Minister said she would ask the Transport Minister to “look at the case put forward by Hitrans”. She added that the Scottish Government wants “our islands to be as accessible as possible for business, tourist and others…”.
Following the exchange, Liam McArthur MSP said:
"The decision by SNP Ministers to cut ADS for business travel back in 2011 was taken without any prior consultation. It led to increased costs for isles businesses as well as the public sector, demonstrating a failure by Ministers to understand the needs of our islands and the importance of these lifeline links.
“Hitrans have now made a compelling case for reversing this decision and allowing island businesses to compete on a more level playing field. Indeed, Hitrans have reported that some 61% of businesses confirm that the cut in ADS had a negative impact on staff productivity, turnover and operating costs.
“The First Minister says she wants to make our islands as accessible as possible for business. If that is the case, she must accept the findings of this report, drop the charade that this is all the fault of the EU and reverse the wrong-headed decision to exclude business travel from the Air Discount Scheme.”