Stone says Scottish Government must step in with financial support for Wick airport
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North MP Jamie Stone has again insisted that the Scottish Government must intervene with financial support to safeguard Caithness air services.
He was speaking after receiving a reply from the Scottish Government to his call for a public service obligation (PSO) to be implemented at Wick John O'Groats Airport.
A few days earlier, Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles had revealed that the company would need to seek support from the UK Treasury in order to continue providing services to the Highlands and Islands.
Three weeks ago, the airline said it was stopping the Wick/Edinburgh link after a decline in passenger numbers, exacerbated by a further drop in bookings caused by Covid-19.
Michael Matheson, Scotland's cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, said in a letter to Mr Stone: “I recognise the issues faced by the Caithness area both specifically in relation to the loss of the Wick/Edinburgh air service and more generally... We are considering carefully the business case that has been submitted by the Caithness Chamber of Commerce and will respond in due course."
Mr Stone, Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: “I can understand the Scottish Government delaying a reply because of the present health crisis. But there is no getting around the fact that the Scottish Government will have to step in and financially support air services to Wick.
"Otherwise its future is in jeopardy. The facts are as stark as that. I very much hope that my and the Caithness chamber’s appeal is heeded once the coronavirus crisis eases."
The full text of Mr Matheson's letter:
"It is disappointing that the Edinburgh/Wick route has failed. This is a hugely challenging time for the aviation industry which means unprofitable routes with falling passenger numbers are being cancelled, despite the benefits to this route provided by the Air Discount Scheme and the Air Passenger Duty exemption.
"I understand that Eastern Airways has suspended the Aberdeen/Wick service for the period March 23 to April 24, 2020. Services are currently scheduled to resume on April 27, 2020, but this is obviously dependent on how the Covid-19 situation develops.
"I recognise the issues faced by the Caithness area both specifically in relation to the loss of the Wick/Edinburgh air service and more generally. It will take the aviation industry some time to recover from the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on route networks.
"The re-establishment of previously operated routes will not be straightforward in an operating environment where there are fewer airlines. We are considering carefully the business case that has been submitted by Caithness Chamber of Commerce and will respond in due course.
"I am sure that you will appreciate, however, the wider issues that Government is collectively dealing with during the Covid-19 crisis. While we will respond to the business case as soon as we can, it will not be immediate."
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