Tuesday, 1 April 2008

'Welcome news but more to be done on air fares', Gibson

News release
Immediate Release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has welcomed the commitment from the Scottish Government’s intention to carry on with the Air Discount Scheme.

The Scheme entitles the residents of Caithness, North West Sutherland, Orkney, Western Isles, Shetland, Islay and Jura to a 40% discount on the price of core air fares.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has applied to the European Commission to extend to the scheme until 2011.

The ADS was introduced less than two years ago and has an uptake of 87%.

Mr Gibson welcomed the news, however he says that more needs to be done to make the Highlands and Islands accessible…..

"I'm glad to see the people of the Islands and remote Highlands benefit from the ADS but in the next 3 years I hope the Scottish Government can gain agreement for our unique geographical circumstances to be met by Public Service Obligation provisions for their air connections."

"Business and tourists coming into these communities will be very welcome additions to the cheaper flights for local residents."


Notes for Editors
The Full Text of Alasdair Allan's Parliamentary Question on the future of the ADS and the Answer:

Alasdair Allan (Western Isles) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what the conclusions are of its review of the Air Discount Scheme.

Mr Stewart Stevenson: I am pleased to announce today that, following our review, the Scottish Government will now seek the agreement of the European Commission for continuation of the Air Discount Scheme (ADS) from 1 April 2008 for another 3 years at the existing discount rate.

The ADS gives residents of Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, Islay, Jura, Caithness and North West Sutherland a 40% discount on the price of core air fares.

An analysis conducted on our behalf by Halcrow shows that there have been significant increases in patronage on some ADS-related services, and significant increases in the frequency and capacity of these services since the launch of the Scheme in May 2006. The analysis has also identified large reductions in average journey times for ADS members, as well as broad satisfaction with the Scheme's administration. From the analysis it is clear that the Scheme has performed very effectively and Ministers have concluded that it should continue.

Halcrow's analysis accords with our own statistical and other evidence built up since May 2006. ADS membership levels are in general very high and well over 200,000 discounted tickets have been purchased since the Scheme began. Over the next 3 years, we believe that the Scheme will make further progress and that increasing numbers of residents in the Highlands and Islands will benefit. We will continue to monitor the ADS' performance during that time to ensure that the Scheme continues to fulfill its key aims.

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