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The truths they don't want you to read....

Monday, December 31, 2007

Air Discount Scheme

The ADS gives residents of the Scottish islands a 40% discount of the cost of flights, as travel costs are so high and travel is so important.

The scheme was started in April 2006 for a period of 2 years, and that expires at the end of March, which is why I have a countdown banner at the top of the page.

For quite some time I have been wondering what was happening with the scheme, with renewal coming closer and closer and I was disappointed at the absence of any comments from politicians, so I took the opportunity to find out what was being done on our behalf by the simple expedient of an FoI request asking for copies of all correspondence between our MP and MSP and the Transport Minister, together with other relevant documents.

I was astonished at the limited correspondence that there was:The substance of the correspondence is interesting, mainly due to the contradictory nature of the responses which can be summarised as:
  • The extension of the scheme needs approval by Europe
  • The scheme doesn't need European approval, but the Government need to get approval from Europe that this is the case
There is an expected announcement date of 2007 for an update on the scheme, but this has obviously been missed.

Not very reassuring that anyone knows what they are doing.

The scheme was due to be extended, but the Government appear to be very evasive on this with a Google search showing nothing definitive, and efforts by the MSP for Shetland reaching the same brick wall of a non-answer.

Having found out what our MP and MSP had done, I then spoke to the Council and was dumbfounded to find that they knew nothing about any of the correspondence or promises by the Minister, least of all the expected announcement by the end of 2007. Suffice to say, they were somewhat annoyed at the lack of information from the Government and lack of communication from the MSP, but the Councillors have promised to pursue this matter.

The complete and utter absence of any positive public comment about the scheme by the Minister since he was appointed has worried me for some time.

It is time for all our politicians to pursue this matter vigorously, as time is limited, and for us as the public to ensure that they do so.

In the meantime, I recommend booking any flights for AFTER March, as soon as possible.


Anonymous said...

Which is all very well Angus, but you fail to mention that Alasdair Allan has also had a meeting with the Minister involved, which should be hard for you to forget considering you highlighted it on this blog!! In my experiences far more can be said in meetings than in letters, especially ones which can be subject to scrutiny as you have highlighted.

Also you fail to mention that this is brought up in the Gazette (which no offense, has to be more reliable than yourself) who suggest a decision will be made soon. (

Also since when has the council had the expectation that they should be weighted on hand and foot? Would it not be more judicious of them to contact their MSP or go straight to the Government to ask for info, instead of expecting others to do everything for them.
Finally, and most importantly, look at the budget, something I am sure you have done in relation to council spendingg. The Scottish Government have indicated that over the next 3 years they want to spend (amongst other transport investments) that:

"The budget supports Highlands and Islands Airports Limited which operates 10 airports in the Highlands
and Islands. It will sustain the continued operation of airport services throughout the Highlands and Islands.
Its operations support the economic and social development of remote and island communities. Resources
will be available for residual contractual expenditure for the previous Air Route Development Fund. The
budget supports the Air Discount Scheme, providing discounted fares on eligible routes to people whose
main residence is in Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, Islay and Jura, Caithness and North-West
Sutherland. Eligible persons qualify for a discount of 40 per cent of the core fares on scheduled air
services between airports within the eligible areas and Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness.
In addition, the budget supports lifeline air services between Glasgow and Barra, and between
Campbeltown and Tiree, which cannot be provided commercially."

Which is on pg92 if you care, where the accompanying figures also sit.

All in all, I think that everything is in place, they just need to find a decent photo opportunity and it will be launched in the New Year.

Have a good Hogmanay!!

Anonymous said...

Looks like the SNP rebuttal squad were ready to cut-and-paste as a result of your FOI Angus.

Is it just me, or are all the letters badly written.

Anonymous said...

Also you fail to mention that this is brought up in the Gazette (which no offense, has to be more reliable than yourself)

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha

Santa brought someone in the SNP office a sense of humour for Christmas. That is the funniest comment I have seen on this blog in 2007

You fail to mention that Donnie Gazette is married to the chair of the local SNP and they have obviously been fed this "story" on the back of Angus' FOI.

I really hope the general public don't fall for this nonsense.

It looks as if the SNP had this comment ready to post onto your blog Angus... Fools

Anonymous said...

As the SNP were very much opposed to the ADS its difficult to see how they can support it's continuation rather than implement the scheme that they supported at that time.

When ADS first came in there was competition on flights from Stornoway, I'm not sure we are getting the best deal under a monopoly, there certain doesn't seem to be the same low cost fares available know that there was 18 months ago.

Anonymous said...

For the New Year, how about the opposing ultra SNP and Labour factions who comment on this blog grow up a bit? In this case, an interesting and detailed comment has been dismissed with a few snide lines. This happens far too often. How do you expect to enthuse young people about politics if you treat politics like the Old Firm, where you support a "team" regardless of the policies? Be big enough to admit when "the other side" gets something right once in a while; people will respect you more for it.

Anonymous said...

What did you expect with whatshisname as MSP and the MP being solely interested in Barra?

Anonymous said...

Who says that he is interested in Barra. Please ask Donald Manfordand he will tell you how interested ABM is in Barra.
This is the reason why Donald stated at a council meeting that he looked forward to working with D J Macsween when he became MP, as he was going to work for all the Islands.

Anonymous said...

2nd anon - no its not just you, all their letters are badly written too;D

Anonymous said...

so you can remove your stupid banner....

Angus said...

I think you wanted to link to here.

The go-ahead is still subject to European approval, which is exactly the same position we were in a year ago.

Indeed, if Mr Stevenson is that certain, he would have been able to confirm this to Mr Allan in November.

So let's wait for the details of any announcement. Until such time the banner stays.

Anonymous said...

Same press release as last week, only with Mr Allan being a bit more positive.

So what has changed since last week ---- apart from Angus asking the questions?

Anonymous said...

Another friendly story in the Sy Greypaper. Perhpas one day their journalists will start to ask questions rather than running press releases.

Anonymous said...

From the Parliament website

S3W-8213Δ Alasdair Allan: To ask the Scottish Executive what the conclusions are of its review of the Air Discount Scheme.

Questions marked with a triangle (Δ) are initiated by the Scottish Executive in order to facilitate the provision of information to the Parliament.

i.e. it is a planted question. Let's seer the detailed answer.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone see any similarity between

"The Scottish Government confirmed today that the Air Discount Scheme will continue" SNP Press release cum Stornoway Gazette report (sic); and

"The Scottish Government is seeking approval to extend cut-price air fares for residents in the Highlands and Islands by another three years" on the BBC?

Which report is full of shit?

Angus said...

I've been asked very specifically why the countdown counter is still running.

At the present time, I haven't seen the exact words used by the Minister as neither the Business Bulletin or the Official Report and until I do I won't believe that the Press Releases are anything but spin.

Sunny Side Up says, "where are the guarantees?" but I go further and ask what has changed since June 2006 when the Minister gave the same conditional answer?

The requirement to seek approval from Europe has been there for two years. What have Labour and now the SNP been doing to actually drive it forward? Have Civil Servants tried to smother it?

Labour improperly and inaccurately hid behind Europe to justify CalMac tendering; are the SNP doing the same here?

If we get at least the same deal as we had before approved by Europe, then I'll applaud. Until then, ADS is still under threat.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why we didn't go ahead and extend the Air Discount Scheme, introduce RET, and for that matter approve all the oustanding wind farm planning applications before Mays election. That would've stuffed the SNP and ensured we were still running Holyrood.

Anonymous said...

To the 'anon' going on about our MP only being interested in Barra.

Where have you been for the last couple of years? He's also relatively interested in the sleazy Labour Cash/Grants/Loans/lend me a fiver until the weekend/for Honours scam which probably paid for the big adverts in the gazette that resulted in Morrison (Mr. Harris Tweed 2008 and not considered good enough to be a Labour MP) being your MSP for a short while.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I don't see why the Western Isle needs not one but 3 bloody airports! What other town (village) in the UK with 8,000 inhabitants has an airport?

You've also got two hospitals!

You're bloody well off up there. Stop wingeing! If the plane's too expensive - take the ferry.