Saving air routes serving Caithness and Sutherland is essential

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart says it more important than ever that the Scottish Government looks seriously at a dual Public Service Obligation on Wick air routes in the light of the economic damage caused by Covid-19.

Mr Stewart backs Transport Secretary Michael Matheson’s pledge to support economic recovery within the transport sector and the broad economy.

Mr Matheson today outlined in Parliament the development of the Government’s Covid-19 Transport Transition Plan which will be phased as the country easing restrictions.

The Transport Secretary said it was the start of “an on-going conversation” about the transition phases in the transport system and the Government “must continue to engage with partners across the sector and beyond”.

Following the announcement which was this week based around public transport, walking and cycling, Mr Stewart encouraged Mr Matheson to spare some time to look in detail at the campaign from Caithness Chamber of Commerce to protect Wick’s air connectivity with routes to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

“Caithness and Sutherland cannot be left without air links when restrictions end but it’s hard to see how these will survive unless the Scottish Government backs an aid package,” said Mr Stewart.

“This area’s economy relies not only on bus, rail and road links, but also on air links, bringing in tourists and workers.

“The very thought of going backwards without this essential aviation connection does not bear thinking about.”

Mr Stewart wrote to Mr Matheson, and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, after Loganair announced the axing of its Edinburgh-Wick service on Friday, March 27.

The MSP had previously asked the Scottish Government for swift action following the collapse of Flybe when the Wick-Aberdeen route was taken over by Eastern Airways which previously ran it under a franchise for Flybe. Mr Stewart argued that the Wick-Aberdeen service was fragile due to falling passenger numbers.

Mr Matheson previously said it was considering carefully the business case submitted by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

  • A PSO, under EU transport law, is a permitted state aid which maintains scheduled air services on routes vital for the economic development of the region they serve.