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Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart calls for greater urgency over future of Wick air routes


By Alan Hendry

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Demands are being made for a public service obligation to protect the Edinburgh and Aberdeen routes from Wick John O'Groats Airport.
Demands are being made for a public service obligation to protect the Edinburgh and Aberdeen routes from Wick John O'Groats Airport.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has again underlined the need to safeguard Caithness air links and urged the Scottish Government to show more urgency over the future of Wick John O'Groats Airport.

Mr Stewart is supporting the campaign for a public service obligation (PSO) to protect the Wick/Edinburgh and Wick/Aberdeen routes after Caithness was left without scheduled air services.

He raised the issue in an aviation debate in the Scottish Parliament this week led by Scottish Labour, calling on ministers to secure a sustainable post-Covid future for a sector that has been thrown into crisis by the pandemic.

Mr Stewart asked Scotland's transport secretary, Michael Matheson, whether he supported the campaign for a PSO. "Currently there are no flights from this airport at all, and it needs a PSO and needs government support to get this up and running,” Mr Stewart said.

Mr Matheson reiterated that the Scottish Government was still evaluating Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s business case and highlighted that local MSP Gail Ross had also been pressing for action.

“I can assure you we will give that fair consideration," Mr Matheson said.

Mr Stewart said later: “The government has had plenty of 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.”

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