Reduction in direct flights to Scotland poses risk to business

A FALL in direct flights to Scotland could reduce the number of export deals and discourage inward foreign investment, a government adviser has warned.

Crawford Beveridge, chairman of the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), told MSPs a lack of direct air routes is forcing many executives to make an extra journey via London, potentially

deterring them from doing business in Scotland.

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Mr Beveridge, a former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, appeared before members of Holyrood’s Economy Committee, alongside fellow CEA member Professor Andrew Hughes Hallett.

The pair answered questions from MSPs on the council’s work, following its first formal meeting last month since being relaunched by the First Minister in November 2011.

The council consists of academics, economists and entrepreneurs whose role is to give economic advice to ministers.

It has been given a specific agenda to look at jobs, economic recovery, internationalisation and “economic levers”.

Committee member and SNP MSP Chic Brodie raised the issue of direct flights during a discussion on internationalisation and the council’s advice on increasing exports and inward investment.

Mr Brodie referred to airline Ryanair’s recent announcement that it will be axing five routes from Edinburgh Airport.

He said: “I was just wondering what advice had been given to the Government in terms of having more direct connectivity.”

Mr Beveridge replied: “I think you’re spot on there. One of the things that makes it hard to even get people to come and visit us is the difficulty in getting here.

“When you’ve already made the 12-hour flight from Beijing or California, or anywhere else, into London and then you have to hang around for another two or three hours to get that last flight up here, it’s a problem.

“If there are easier places to get to, many executives will just go to the easier places. It’s just too hard to make this extra dimension.”

The Scottish Government has already set out ambitions to improve international air connections with key global economies such as China.

Mr Beveridge said it is “very important” to consider measures such as funding airlines to set up direct flights, in order to see if a market can be established.