SCOTLAND’S environmental watchdog has come under fire after it emerged that staff took nearly three flights a day last year.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency used planes for 536 work-related journeys last year – the vast majority of them return flights – with 389 of those being short domestic trips within the UK.
The government quango also spent more than £500,000 on flights in the last five years, with some tickets costing as much as £3700.
The figures, released under Freedom of Information legislation, come as the SEPA looks to axe around 10 per cent of its staff to cut costs.
The activities of the government agency, which monitors and regulates air pollution, have been branded “absurd” by critics.
Green Party convenor Patrick Harvie MSP, said: “SEPA have had to admit their overall carbon emissions are continuing to rise.
“They should be addressing their use of flights – going to places like London for meetings by place is absurd.”
Many of SEPA’s business flights were short trips from Edinburgh to Manchester and Glasgow to London, both of which have fast and frequent rail links.
Last year SEPA spent £677 on a return flight from Inverness to Orkney, while another trip from Edinburgh to Heathrow cost £656.
And the organisation’s international flights pushed the cost of tickets to taxpayers even higher.
The organisation paid £2524 return last February to fly their waste management consultant from the UK to Abu Dhabi to advise the oil-rich emirate on waste management.
While another trip in 2007 to Nashville, Tennessee, costing £3690 return, one of 737 flights that year that cost the taxpayer £127,063.
Matthew Sinclair, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Ordinary people are lectured about flights and told they need to feel guilty about their holidays, but the number of flights being taken at SEPA show that there’s one rule for us, another for them.
“Rapid rises in aviation taxes are making tickets more expensive for ordinary people, but that won’t concern quangos paying for their flights with taxpayers’ money.
“If even environmental quangos can’t keep their number of flights down, the Government should stop trying to lecture and tax families out of the skies.”
A spokesman for SEPA said: “Travel within Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond is an essential part of SEPA’s work.
“As a public body SEPA has to balance its impact on the environment with cost, time and staff welfare – this means staff who need to travel do sometimes need to fly.
“Between 2007 and 2009 SEPA has more than halved the number of UK mainland flights.
“We make extensive use of our video-conferencing facilities for wide range of meetings and discussions.”