DANNY Alexander landed aviation in the independence debate yesterday as he unveiled the UK government’s first grant from a fund to support the fledgling Dundee-Stansted route.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, below, insisted that the inaugural £2.85 million grant under the new regional air connectivity fund “shows how we are better off together”.
The grant will provide security for two years from 1 July for the twice-daily Flybe flights, operated by Loganair. They began in March with initial funding from Dundee City Council.
The route was launched to replace CityJet’s Dundee-London City route, which was axed at the same time. It will operate under a “public service obligation” (PSO), similar to the Highlands and Islands routes funded by the Scottish Government.
The Stansted link is seen as crucial to the fortunes of the tiny Tayside airport, whose 26,774 passenger total in the year to March was smaller than Islay and Benbecula’s, and fewer than Edinburgh handles daily.
Alexander, the Inverness, Badenoch and Strathspey Liberal Democrat MP, said: “Dundee is a key economic hub in Scotland’s thriving economy. This will ensure its key industries remain connected to rest of the UK.
“It’s good news for the people of Dundee and shows how we are better off together.”
UK aviation minister Robert Goodwill said: “This funding from the regional air connectivity fund, the first of its kind, is good news for Dundee and its economy, whether it’s the world-class research being carried by out the University of Dundee or the city’s financial services sector.
“Regional airports have a key role to play in our long-term economic plan for the nation’s future prosperity, and the government is committed to ensuring they have access to London and vice versa.”
The UK government, which doubled the fund to £20m in the Budget, said it aims to “maintain important regional air connections” that are at risk.
Ministers also intend to use it to keep Newquay-London flights going after Flybe said it would end the route in October.
Edinburgh airport chief executive Gordon Dewar has previously condemned public sector support for the route and said passengers should take the train instead. He has described public sector funding for the Dundee route as “propping up a failing business” and said the private sector ran services elsewhere “at no cost to the taxpayer, and I would argue does it better”.
Scottish transport minister Keith Brown said: “Transport Scotland officials worked alongside Dundee City Council and Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) to help secure the air link in the short term, allowing the full PSO to be set up on the Dundee-London route.
“Transport Scotland will continue to work hard in partnership with Dundee City Council and Hial to find ways of maximising the potential of Dundee airport.”