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A 50% discount on ferry fares for school minibuses is to be launched jointly by Transport Scotland and CalMac this week.

The reduced prices will be available for minibuses taking pupils to extra-curricular activities on the mainland and will start tomorrow (Wednesday 1 December).

Transport Scotland’s decision to reduce the cost follows campaigning by the Ferries Community Board, which has been calling for a fare reduction so that young people can benefit.

Former council leader Angus Campbell, who chairs the board, said: "We very much welcome this announcement. We have long campaigned for such a change and are confident it will make a real difference to the equality of access to these types of activities for our island young people.

"We will continue to engage with Government to ensure cost of travel is not a barrier to young people living, working and learning on our islands."

Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, said: "School groups will benefit from this new initiative, which will help them access educational, sporting and cultural activities. CalMac are dedicated to supporting our island communities and we look forward to welcoming even more school groups on board our vessels."

Minister for Transport Graeme Dey said: "I'm really pleased to announce this discount, which will make it more affordable for school groups to travel to and from the islands for educational, cultural and sporting activities.

"This is one of the issues that has been raised regularly by the Ferries Community Board, so I'm sure it will be welcomed and I thank them for their input.

"In the longer term, we'll review making the discount permanent as part of the ongoing fares review being carried out in the Islands Connectivity Plan."

For details about eligibility, please visit the CalMac website.

The discount will be introduced on 1 December and reviewed after the initial year to establish how it has been taken up and how it is funded. In the longer term, the discount will be considered as part of the fares policy review in the islands connectivity plan.

The picture shows pupils from Sgoil a’Bhac celebrating the announcement of the schools discount.