Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart brought up the position of Wick air routes today in a debate led by Scottish Labour which called for ministers to secure a sustainable post-Covid future for a sector that has been thrown into crisis by the pandemic.
Mr Stewart asked Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson: “Does the Cabinet Secretary support my campaign and that of the Chamber of Commerce from Caithness to ensure that we have a Public Service Obligation from Wick to Edinburgh and Wick to Aberdeen? Currently there are no flights from this airport at all and it needs a PSO and needs the Government support to get this up and running.”
Mr Matheson gave a short reply which reiterated that the Scottish Government was still evaluating Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s business case and highlighting that MSP Gail Ross had also been pressing for action.
The Transport Secretary added: “I can assure you we will give that fair consideration”.
Afterwards Mr Stewart commented: “The Government has had plenty time to consider what action it is going to take to aid Caithness and Sutherland and restore its connectivity with Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world.
“The situation at Wick John O Groats airport was fragile before Coronavirus hit and the Government should have been looking ahead long before the beginning of this year to how it could ring-fence and protect the area’s flights for the future.
“Instead of fair consideration, it should now be a fast consideration taking into account the future development of Caithness and the fact that it is suffering from the centralisation of services.”
- Mr Stewart has been supporting the campaign for a Public Service Obligation (PSO) to protect the Wick Edinburgh and Wick Aberdeen routes following Caithness being left without scheduled air services.
In a July PQ, lodged by Mr Stewart, Mr Matheson replied that a PSO “would likely take around nine to 12 months for services to start due to the regulatory and procurement processes required”. Mr Stewart called for rapid movement on the air routes to keep the Far North’s connectivity and to aid development for the future.
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. Eastern Airways has now withdrawn this route.
Mr Matheson previously said it was considering carefully the business case submitted by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.