Highlands & Islands (Labour) MSP and Shadow Transport and Island Minister, David Stewart, stepped up his pressure on the Scottish Government to do something to address the sky high fares charged by flight operators Flybe and Loganair to passengers flying to and from the Northern and Western Isles.
At Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Questions in the Parliament yesterday he asked the Transport and Islands Minister, Derek Mackay what representations the Government had received regarding the cost of flights to and from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
The Minister replied ““I am aware of the issues surrounding air fares in the Highlands & Islands. This Government agreed to continue with the Air Discount Scheme (ADS) for the benefit of users of these flights. I have met with representatives from the Island Authorities who also raised this issue amongst others. I have agreed to meet MSPs and campaigners and also have asked for a scoping exercise to be carried out looking into the issue”.
David Stewart then asked the Minister “The Minister may be aware that the online campaign ‘Islanders against Flybe & Loganair's excessive prices’ has secured over 14,000 followers. Labour introduced the ADS in 2006 to make air services affordable for remote communities in the Highlands & Islands and facilitate accessibility and social inclusion by providing a discount of 40% on the core air fare on certain eligible routes. What else is the Minister doing to address the sky high prices being charged by the Flybe and Loganair on flights to and from the islands?
For the Government, Derek Mackay, replied “I repeat that this Government should be congratulated for agreeing to continue with the Air Discount Scheme. Fares are not the only issue, there is an issue around reliability also and as indicated I am happy to meet campaigners, community groups and MSPs to look at options. I too, share their concerns about the nature of services and operators should be mindful that they provide a lifeline service”.
David Stewart further stated “ The Minister has agreed to meet me formally at 4.30pm next Wednesday in the Scottish Parliament when I hope to emphasise how important it is that the flights to and from our Islands are more affordable for those that rely on this lifeline service”.