The Air Discount Scheme, which offers a significant discount on air fares for travellers from the Western Isles, has been increased to 50 per cent.
The announcement was made by Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay at the islands debate in parliament today (Tuesday).
50 per cent is the maximum allowed under the terms of the scheme and will apply to tickets booked on or after 1 January. This increase comes after Mr Mackay announced earlier this year the scheme was being extended to 2019.
Mr Mackay today also announced a total freeze on ferry fares for 2016/17 across the Scottish Government subsidised services – including passengers, cars and commercial vehicles.
The debate follows the launch of the Islands Bill consultation last week which included proposals that could see additional powers, stronger representation at Holyrood and the creation of a National Islands Plan.
Mr Mackay said: “The Scottish Government continues to do everything we can to support communities in the Highlands and Islands and measures such as the Air Discount Scheme and freezing ferry fares make a real difference for local residents.
“The scheme has proved hugely popular with users, as it directly tackles the issue of high air fares in the Highlands and Islands. By increasing the discount offered to the maximum allowed we are aiming to make sure these communities remain connected.
“The consultation I launched last week is the next step in helping inform the Government’s work for a more prosperous and fairer future for our island communities. During the summer I was struck by the many positive examples of community initiatives taking place across our islands.
“I am pleased to announce plans to hold an Islands Communities Conference early in 2016 and I would encourage everyone with an interest to get involved.”