easyJet has announced an agreement that will offer budget travel for public sector workers who travel between Scotland and London for business. The deal has been made with Expotel, which handles travel management for the Scottish government and several other public sector organisations.
The travel arrangement with easyJet will cover all public sector staff, effective starting tomorrow, 1 December. Workers who can take advantage of the agreement include those employed by the local government, police force and organisations like NHS Scotland. MSPs will also be able to make use of the arrangement, which means the likes of First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be able to travel with the carrier to save money on travel expenses.
easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said they believe the new agreement will offer easy and affordable travel to public sector staff throughout Scotland, as well as safeguard taxpayers’ purse by saving the government money. This underlines the airline’s commitment to the country and follows an announcement for six new routes at Edinburgh Airport that will help provide the economy with £90 million.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the economic environment is still difficult, and they are always looking for alternatives that will reduce necessary expenses, like those for travel. This agreement between easyJet and Expotel will deliver substantial savings for Scottish organisations in the public sector, as well as for the government.
A spokesman for the government added that they have always made it a priority to ensure travel is delivered in the most cost-effective and efficient way to provide taxpayers with the best deal. Ministers will be able to use easyJet as part of the new deal, but their offices will determine the transport option they use to ensure it’s the most time-efficient and cost-effective method available when the booking is made.
The announcement of this deal comes after reports emerged that Salmond and his team spent nearly £500,000 on a Ryder Cup trip this year. The politicians were joined by 22 officials from Scottish Development International and VisitScotland and 12 officials from the Scottish government. However, the deal between easyJet and Expotel has been criticised by the Green party, which says the government and its organisations are setting a bad example with the agreement at a time when they should be trying to use low-carbon transport solutions.
The Scottish government has vowed to drive down harmful carbon emissions, with the SNP administration setting up a world-leading legislation on climate change that aims to reduce emissions 42% by the end of the decade. Environmentalists staged a protest last month outside Holyrood, just days after the Scottish government reportedly failed to reach its first legally binding target on emissions reduction.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone is afraid ministers are sending the wrong message with the deal between easyJet and Expotel. She says the announcement sends the worst signal possible to the public and private sector when a lot of effort is being made to encourage business travellers to use low-carbon transport options to visit London. According to a report revealed last month, just one flight to London from Edinburgh emits three times the amount of carbon as a train. Additionally, rail travel is more economical and allows for better work productivity. A better example needs to be set by the government if it wants big employers to help meet carbon emissions targets.
However, easyJet says that its flights don’t emit the same amount of CO2 as other airlines. Using the latest technology, filling most of its seats and operating efficiently, the carbon footprint for one of its passengers is 22% less than someone using a traditional airline and flying the same route on the same aircraft.