Investment needed to develop air services, claim aviation chiefs

The chairman of HIAL, which operates and manages Campbeltown Airport, is calling for investment to develop air services. Photograph: RCAHMS.
The chairman of HIAL, which operates and manages Campbeltown Airport, is calling for investment to develop air services. Photograph: RCAHMS.

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Key Highland and Island aviation stakeholders have joined forces to set out a plan of action that they believe is crucial for the development of air services in the region.

Councillor Allan Henderson, chairperson of HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, and Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) – which operates and manages Campbeltown Airport – have sent a detailed response to a Transport Scotland Aviation Strategy Consultation.

They say air connectivity is essential for lifeline services and supporting the economy of the Highlands and Islands and believe there are excellent opportunities for aviation to deliver improved sustainable low carbon connectivity – with the right investment and governance.

To that end, they look forward to engaging collaboratively with Transport Scotland, local authorities and air operators to develop an ambitious aviation strategy for Scotland.

In a covering letter to their response, Councillor Henderson and Mr Lyon said: ‘Air links form an essential, often lifeline, element of the transport network in the Highlands and Islands.

‘All domestic air services either depart or land at an airport in the Highlands and Islands.

‘They provide these locations with the only air connectivity that enables these areas to compete economically with other regions of Scotland.

‘The services also often provide access to essential services such as health and education as well as the means by which many centrally located services are delivered to these islands and remote communities.’

They say sustained investment is required from the Scottish Government to achieve both the ambitious transition to net zero and fully realise the opportunities that transition can provide through improved connectivity and benefits to local supply chains.

Particular investment is needed to support the development of these new technologies and the associated infrastructure required to support them, they claim.

The letter adds: ‘HITRANS and HIAL welcome a collaborative objective-led review of all current support mechanisms including PSOs and the Air Discount Scheme but also all wider funding and infrastructure.

‘The starting point of this review should be to establish a minimum level of service to ensure the connectivity needed to support sustainable local economies and a fairer and more just Scotland.

‘Surface transport to all UK airports is currently founded on models which incentivise private car use – be it a reliance on car parking revenue at airports or the promotion of fly and drive over public transport by airlines.

‘Again, an extensive overhaul of existing policy and regulation is required if we are to meet net zero targets and deliver against the sustainable travel hierarchy within the National Transport Strategy.’

Councillor Henderson and Mr Lyon added that stakeholders and businesses in the Highlands and Islands had repeatedly highlighted the importance of securing guaranteed access to international hub airports over any new direct routes to Scotland.