ALEX Salmond and his fellow government ministers could be travelling to major summits by easyJet after a deal was struck with the budget carrier yesterday.
The cost-saving deal was announced after it emerged that Mr Salmond and his entourage spent almost £500,000 on a week-long trip to the Ryder Cup earlier this year.
The travel deal with the low-cost airline will cover all publicsector staff in Scotland. But the move has come under fire from the Green Party in Scotland, which said it set a bad example at a time when the government should be trying to switch to low-carbon modes of transport.
It will offer low-cost flexible fares between Scotland and London for employees travelling on business. And senior ministers like Mr Salmond and deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon could be among those travelling with the company.
“Our priority has always been to ensure government travel is delivered in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, which provides the best deal for taxpayers,” a Scottish Government spokesman said.
“Ministers can use easyJet as part of this new deal.”
The agreement between the airline and Expotel, the travel management company for the Scottish Government and a number of other public-sector bodies, will come into effect from December.
Public-sector workers who can make use of the deal will include those employed by organisations such as NHS Scotland, the police force and local government, as well as MSPs.
Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, said: “We believe this new deal will not only offer public-sector workers across Scotland easy and affordable travel but will also safeguard the taxpayers’ purse.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “This is a tough economic climate and we are always looking for ways to cut down on necessary expenses such as travel. This deal between Expotel and easyJet will provide significant savings for public-sector organisations in Scotland.”
But it comes at a time when the Scottish Government is committed to driving down harmful greenhouse gas emissions and the SNP administration has set “world-leading” climate change legislation with a headline aim of cutting emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone fears the easyJet deal sends out the wrong message from
“This announcement sends the worst possible signal to both the public and private sector at a time when a lot of effort is being made to get business travellers to switch to low-carbon travel to London,” the Lothian MSP said.
The SNP administration came under fire this week after it emerged that almost £500,000 was spent sending Mr Salmond and his entourage on a trip to the Ryder Cup in Chicago.
SNP politicians were accompanied by 12 Scottish government officials and another 22 from VisitScotland and Scottish Development International, the quango set up to attract overseas business to Scotland.