ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have praised the Scottish Government for achieving the target of cutting business flights by ministers and civil servants by more than 20%.

WWF set the One in Five Challenge, seeking the cut in air travel over a five-year period and the Scottish administration has become the first in the UK to achieve it, slashing the number of flights by 28%, cutting carbon pollution and saving more than £500,000 in the process.

During that time, the number of business flights annually fell from 11,169 to 8036, a reduction of 3133. The distances flown annually fell by more than a million miles, 650 tonnes of CO2 emissions were saved, and cash savings of 31% were made.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "Scottish Ministers and their staff are to be congratulated for cutting their flights and carbon emissions by over a fifth.

"By successfully completing WWF's One in Five Challenge the Scottish Government has clearly demonstrated that many business flights are simply unnecessary and can easily be replaced with lower carbon alternatives such as rail or video-conferencing." He added: "Flying is the most polluting form of transport, as well as being a costly waste of time for our public servants. Using video-conferencing or taking the train turns wasted time into useful time and could save millions of pounds in these times of tight public finances. Having shown what's possible, ministers should now use their own experience to champion measures that will encourage other businesses to follow their lead."

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "This is an important part of our overall environmental strategy to reduce our carbon footprint, and we have met the target by increasing the use of video and web-conferencing facilities for meetings and encouraging greater use of sustainable travel options."