'Air Miles Andy' to fly in face of Kirk's climate change plea
The prince, nicknamed "Air Miles Andy" for his frequent flying habits, will carry out a series of visits across Scotland while representing the Queen as Lord High Commissioner to the Assembly.
But his helicopter trips come as Kirk leaders consider a report calling for "significant lifestyle changes" to cut energy use and combat climate change.
Prince Andrew arrived in Edinburgh last night and was today attending the ceremonial opening of the Kirk's annual gathering at the Assembly Hall on The Mound.
He will stay at the Palace of Holyroodhouse throughout the week, attending the Assembly each morning before going on visits to church-related and other projects and returning to the palace each evening. The programme includes visits to Glasgow and Renfrewshire on Monday, Inverness on Tuesday and Aberdeen on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman confirmed the prince would be travelling by helicopter on these three days, but not on Thursday or Friday when his engagements will be in Edinburgh and Fife.
Climate change and the need to cut energy use are one of the key themes for the Kirk at this year's Assembly. A report by its Church and Society Council talks about the "urgency" for major changes "to avert the worst consequences of climate change".
It says: "In transport, the fastest growing sector of energy use, we simply have to use cars less and fly less." The Assembly will be asked to pass a resolution urging church members to make "significant lifestyle changes to reduce their use of energy".
The Assembly is due to debate the issue on Tuesday, just as Prince Andrew takes off in his helicopter to visit a community centre and open a play area in Inverness.
His Edinburgh visits on Thursday include the Royal College of Surgeons, a Church of Scotland Crossreach support centre in Trinity, Leith Sea Cadets and the Lady Haig Poppy Factory.
A spokeswoman for the prince said: "All travel options were explored, but given the places he is travelling to, the helicopter was the best way to travel.
"The cost of the helicopter will be met, as for any other royal engagement, by royal travel."
Morag Mylne, convener of the Kirk's church and society council, who will present the call for action on climate change to the Assembly, said: "There is a clear message in the report and it is held in common by many people who are concerned about climate change.
"We do emphasise it's something on which all individuals have to make up their minds and that applies to government, congregations and individuals."
Prince Andrew has often been attacked for his jet-setting lifestyle. Last month he defended a likely bill of around 500,000 this year for his trade missions by claiming it was "cheap at the price".
The Duke of York is no stranger to criticism over his choice of travel plans. Prince Andrew's love of lavish flights and helicopter trips at the taxpayer's expense led him to receive nicknames such as the "Junket of York" and "Air Miles Andy".
It emerged in January 2005 that he had spent 325,000 of public money the previous year hiring planes and helicopters to fly to lunches and golf matches.
The report by the National Audit Office (NAO) shows that in 2004 he spent 32,000 on travelling to St Andrews during his year as captain of the club.
He even used an RAF jet instead of a cheaper and slower commercial flight to allow him to complete 18 holes at St Andrews.
Buckingham Palace officials have introduced new environmental rules for all members of the Royal Family, meaning Prince Andrew will now have to justify his choice of travel on energy efficiency and environmental considerations.
Prince Charles has vowed to cut his use of aircraft and switch to cars using greener biodiesel, or regular train services.