Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has raised local concerns about aviation in a parliamentary debate on the topic this week. Mr Carmichael highlighted to the Aviation Minister the recent anxieties around potential redundancies at lifeline operator Loganair, and frustrations with the Scottish Government’s planned centralisation of air traffic control services.
The MP also noted the need to preserve pre-pandemic air links in order to ensure that the visitor economy could recover strongly in 2021, and vowed to write to the Minister to get a full response.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Carmichael said:
“In an island community, if we get transport right, just about everything else—economic development, public services and the rest — falls into place. Aviation is critical, both within the islands to shift doctors, vets and teachers around the smaller island groups, and between the islands and mainland communities. For our businesses and communities, that connectivity is absolutely critical.
“The situation facing Loganair, the operator of the lifeline services throughout the Highlands and Islands, is pretty serious at the moment. It has done well to provide a skeleton service throughout the lockdown, but as it looks towards 2021, it sees very little to inspire confidence. It has the same fixed costs as all other airlines, including airport charges, standing charges and the cost of plane purchase and rental.
“When we get to the end of March, we will be looking to open up and get our visitor economy going. The availability of good, frequent, reliable air services will be crucial to getting us running again.”
Turning to ongoing concerns about air traffic control, Mr Carmichael said:
“The Scottish Government, through Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, continue to insist on the removal of air traffic control officers from airports throughout the Highlands and Islands, to centralise them all in Inverness. The service is not just good but reliable, so that should be put on the back burner for the foreseeable future.”
Speaking after the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“The Minister gave little by way of relevant response to the concerns I raised about aviation in the isles. These issues matter to my constituents, whether by way of access to high quality jobs, lifeline travel or rebuilding our vital visitor economy, so I shall be writing to him to ensure that we get a proper reply on these issues.”