Labour’s David Stewart and Rhoda Grant are supporting constituents who want to see Wick air routes ring-fenced and protected for the future.
The MSPs, who represents the Highlands and Islands, have been contacted by local people calling for a Public Service Obligation (PSO) on Caithness air services because they argue the region has been failed by not having good transport links.
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.
Mr Stewart contacted Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, after a recent visit to Caithness where the need for a PSO was raised by constituents particularly concerned about the future of the Wick-Edinburgh route. Mrs Grant has been contacted by a business also worried about fragile air links.
Caithness Chamber of Commerce argued last month that a PSO route to Wick would put Caithness and Sutherland on an equal footing with many remote and rural communities elsewhere in Scotland well-served by air routes.
In his reply to the MSPs, Mr Matheson highlighted Wick’s two scheduled air services, Wick-Edinburgh and Wick-Aberdeen, and said that “given the commercial nature of the current air services serving multiple destinations, it is not possible to impose a PSO on an air service from Wick at present”.
Mr Matheson added: “Should both current services cease we would consider the use of a PSO.”
Mr Stewart stressed that the travelling time from Edinburgh was at least five and a half hours by car and eight hours by public transport, weather conditions permitting.
“The Scottish Government’s reply is disappointing,” said Mr Stewart.
“I’ve been told about the deep concern in Caithness about the future viability of Wick’s air routes and it would be a great pity if we had to wait for a complete failure of the service before the Scottish Government take action.
“I will be raising this in the Scottish Parliament as Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Aviation.”
Mr Grant added that businesses were already challenged by being in a remote, rural area and maintaining of air links were vital for development and jobs.
“Many jobs hang in the balance which are connected to a good air service, from those at the airport itself, to Aberdeen links to the oil and gas industry, to servicing wind energy developments and so on.
“Dounreay decommissioning is ongoing and relies on air transport for travelling contractors and executives. Passengers should not have to travel to Inverness to access vital air services.”
Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart has highlighted Pedestrians and cyclists need protecting by better markings and signage.
David Stewart said “ For every person walking along minding their own business, there is also likely to be a cyclists not far off. This situation has irritated and annoyed many walkers who write into me to complain. The issue has also exasperated some cyclists who have been verbally abused by pedestrians. However, the issue is not straight forward. It is not as simple as cyclists on the road and walkers on the pavement.
Many of these footways are shared space and there are only signs intermittedly and markings at junctions. There is a distinct lack of circular blue and white signs containing cycle and pedestrian symbols and a similar lack of white markings on the pavement. The outcome, as most of us know is that cyclist feel intimidated legally cycling on some footways and pedestrians feel angered that cyclists are cycling on what they perceive is a pavement.
So what is the answer. Well in my opinion we need far more blue and white signs and far more route marking, even a dividing line between pedestrians and walkers. However, we could go a step further and consider painting all shared cycle routes on shared footways in urban areas a uniform colour across Scotland. Surely this would make the situation better and reduce those incidents of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians by making clear what footways are shared space.
I have written to the Transport Minister, Michael Matheson MSP suggesting this initiative.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, is taking the Health Secretary to task after she rejected the involvement of ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – in allegations of bullying and harassment at NHS Highland.
Mr Stewart, who is also Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, asked the Scottish Government if it had been in discussion with ACAS following a briefing from the GMB saying it was raising a Collective Dispute against NHS Highland management and board.
In a written reply, Jeane Freeman said: “ACAS provide conciliation and arbitration services rather than the investigation of bullying and harassment concerns”.
However, Mr Stewart said he would now be contacting ACAS to challenge this.
“The GMB has requested that talks with NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government should begin at the earliest opportunity and, as it was now a formal Collective Dispute, that ACAS intervene too,” he said.
“So many people are now coming forward with their own personal stories of bullying that it is obvious that only an independent investigation will protect them and I believe that ACAS can play a valuable role in discussions around how this could be done.
“The Health Secretary is missing the point. We need to start taking constructive steps to avoid further reputational damage caused by the continual denial of what is evidently an issue in NHS Highland.
“The longer the Scottish Government holds out on launching an external investigation the more damage is being done to NHS staff and the more concern there is from patients.”
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