THE Scottish LibDems have taken aim at the Scottish Government after figured showed staff took more than 4,000 flights last year at the same time Holyrood declared a climate emergency.

The number of international plane trips taken by staff rose to 1,724 in 2019 from 1,679 the previous year, according to a Freedom of Information request from the LibDems.

The figure also represents a 73% jump in international flights since 2015.

The amount of flights to other parts of the UK also rose over the same period, from 2,432 to 2,527, although the 2019 total is a reduction of almost 800 on 2018.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency at the SNP party conference in April before Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham made a speech in Holyrood expressing the same view in May.

The Scottish Parliament also passed the Climate Change Act late last year, which, the First Minister has repeatedly said, lays out the "most ambitious climate change targets of any country in the world".

However, opposition parties have accused the Scottish Government of hypocrisy over the number of flights taken.

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LibDem Mike Rumbles said: "The volume of Scottish Government flights, both inside and outside the UK, is astounding.

"This is a government which has declared a climate emergency, but the number of flights abroad has increased massively and it is often opting for the least environmentally friendly way of getting around Britain. The travel record here is worthy of serious scrutiny.

"The First Minister says she wants Scotland to be a world leader on climate change. To do that, she needs to lead by example.

"This level of air travel cannot continue and Nicola Sturgeon should immediately withdraw her support for the expansion of Heathrow, which we know would result in an additional 600,000 tonnes of Scottish flight emissions by 2040."

Councillor Kim Long, the co-convener of the Scottish Greens in Glasgow, said: "The climate budget deal struck by Greens in Glasgow this week will introduce a prohibition on councillors flying internally within the UK.

"The Scottish Government claim to recognise the climate emergency so they'd be well advised to follow Glasgow's example, ensuring that public transport is always the default option."

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Our policy states that air travel should be avoided for travel within the UK whenever possible – and there was a 23% drop in the number of domestic flights taken by core staff in 2019 compared with the previous year.

"Business flights taken by Scottish Government ministers or employees are offset by a carbon levy.

"The levy collects approximately £40,000 per year and is spent in a transparent way to deliver best value for taxpayers and compensate for any carbon emissions generated.

"Travel is an essential part of official Government business.

"Employees take their responsibility to travel sustainably very seriously and aim to use more sustainable forms of transport wherever possible."