The board running Scotland’s most remote airports should be dismissed unless they reverse their £3-a-day parking charge, MSPs heard yesterday.
The call was made by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott in a members’ debate expressing anger at the parking charges at Sumburgh, Stornoway and Kirkwall airports.
Mr Scott claimed the charges were implemented without proper consultation with locals or politicians and that Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) failed to understand the geographical challenges faced by islanders.
Speaking after the debate, Mr Scott said: “Quite simply this is a tax on island life. No islander believes that if the £3 a day charge is introduced it will stay at £3. Charges are being used to balance the HIAL budget. So if the government cut the HIAL grant, or the management make a complete mess of centralising air traffic control in Inverness, which many believe will happen, them what will they do? Increase the car park charges.
“Ministers should instruct HIAL to conduct a proper consultation on these proposals and a thorough assessment of their operations. And if HIAL won’t do that they should get rid of the board – a board with no island knowledge.
“It is ironic that in the month that the Scottish Government want Parliament to vote for an Islands bill and island proofing, a tax is being imposed which will hit the economic and social vitality of the islands. It will take some selling by ministers to convince islanders that island proofing is any more than spin and window dressing.”
During the debate, Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I don’t think anyone wants to pay more for anything. That is generally accepted as being the case. So consulting on the practical implementation on this is really important. HIAL are doing that with genuinely an open mind. I suspect when they finish their consultation there will be some element of concessions. What I would also say is that this about sustainability of the air service.”
A HIAL spokesman said: “ Today’s Parliamentary debate clearly illustrates the importance of sustainable air transport provision for the Highlands and Islands. However, there remains an urgent need to raise the revenue required to reinvest in maintaining viable air services for the communities we serve and a fair and proportionate parking charge for airport users is one means of maintaining the necessary investment. Revenue raised through these charges is required to reinvest and continuously develop the airports in coming years.”