PUSHING forward the fight, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling on the Scottish Government to overturn its decision to withdraw the business, public sector and third sector element from the Air Discount Scheme (ADS).
The SNP Government claimed that these elements of the scheme were withdrawn following demands from the European Commission, however Mr Stewart received information via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request which shows that it was the Scottish Government who initiated the approach to Europe to cut business, public and third sectors out of the ADS.
David Stewart said: “It is clear from the response I received to my FoI request that the Scottish Government has not been honest with the people of the Highlands and Islands.
“It was them, not Europe, who initiated the withdrawal of these elements from the scheme with the reported savings to Government estimated to be just £2.7m per year. This is a drop in the ocean in the Government’s budget and is a pure and simple cost-cutting exercise.
“This exercise however will have a seriously detrimental effect on some of our remote Highlands and Islands communities.
Mr Stewart continued: “For the Western Isles in particular, this is a tremendous blow.
“I know from attending a public meeting in Stornoway recently that feelings are running high about the exorbitant fuel prices on the islands. High fuel costs, the RET being removed from commercial vehicles and businesses and charities being withdrawn from ADS will all take their toll on the islands.
“The people of the Western Isles are fed up being punished for their remoteness. This Scottish Government needs to change its attitude towards our island communities and I will continue to support the islands in their drive for fairer fuel prices and for the ill-judged, damaging, decisions on RET and ADS to be overturned.”
Mr Stewart’s motion in Scottish Parliament – ‘Withdrawal of business, public sector and third sector from Air Discount Scheme’ – read as follows: “That the Parliament notes the recent decision by the Scottish Government to withdraw the business, public sector and third sector element from the Air Discount Scheme; understands that the scheme was introduced in 2006 to make air services affordable for remote communities in the Highlands and Islands; believes the withdrawal of business, public and third sector from the scheme will have a hugely detrimental effect on the remote and island communities that benefitted; believes the reported £2.7m saving per year to the Scottish Government is meagre in comparison to the social and economic benefits remote and island communities gain from the scheme; considers this to be an ill-judged decision on the part of the Scottish Government and asks the Scottish Government to consider the reinstatement of these elements to the Air Discount Scheme.”