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Caithness News Bulletins February 2006

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LOWER AIR FARES FOR HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS


Tavish Scott spoke to Bill Fernie at Edinburgh airport after travelling from Shetland after making his announcement about the new support of Fares Structures in Highland and Islands

Transport Minister Tavish Scott,  announced innovative proposals to deliver lower air fares for people who live in the Highlands and Islands.  (Tavish Scott is the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Shetland)

In a UK first, the devolved Scottish Government plans to employ the Aid of Social Character scheme. This allows public sector support to reduce air fares in remote and peripheral regions on approval from the European Commission, improving access for remote communities.

Under the ground breaking scheme, residents of Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Islay, Jura and Caithness will be eligible for an estimated 40 per cent discount on trips to Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

These innovative proposals are a crucial step in delivering on the commitment made by the First Minster, Jack McConnell in 2002. They will stimulate the market and open up competition - boosting the capacity,
frequency and number of air routes available in these areas.

An annual budget of 11.2 million has been allocated to deliver the scheme over the next two years (2006/07 and 2007/08).

Mr Scott said: "Air fares from the remoter parts of the Highlands and Islands to Scotland's key population centres are unacceptably high, creating a barrier to social inclusion, accessibility and economic growth. The Partnership Agreement saw a commitment to address this.

"We hope to have the scheme in place before the summer to help deliver affordable air fares to Scotland's most peripheral communities. We will be able to confirm the start date once the European Commission has agreed our proposal. Similar schemes are in place across Europe and initial discussions with the Commission have been positive."

How The New Fares Scheme Will Work

1. Eligibility

  • a. Discounts will be available to people whose main residence is in one of the defined eligible geographical areas - Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Islay and Jura, Caithness.
  • b. Discounts will be available on any scheduled air service to and from any airport within the eligible geographic area to:
    * One of four main population centres within Scotland - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness; and to
    * Another airport within the eligible geographic area
  • c. There will be no restriction on the number of trips per eligible person.
  • d.The discount will be available for both single and return journeys.

2. Exclusions

  • The Scheme is intended to link isolated populations to commercial centres rather than subsidise wider journeys beyond Scotland. An onward connection element to an airport outside the four population centres and the eligible geographic area will not qualify.
  • Current Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes, as European regulation does not allow multiple forms of aid on one route.
  • People whose main residence is not in the eligible geographic area.
  •  National Health Service funded trips.