Runway dispute should stay out of court

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott: 'a pointless legal case'.

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has called on Scottish ministers to help resolve the legal battle between airport operator HIAL and the islands’ council.

Scottish government owned Highland and Islands Airports Limited is suing Shetland Islands Council for more than £14 million in damages in a dispute over work carried out to extend the Sumburgh airport’s runway.


Calling for an out of court settlement, Scott described the situation as “ludicrous” and said the court action could not be allowed to go ahead.

“This is a pointless legal case. It can’t be in anyone’s interest and is a waste of public money. It is effectively a dispute between two different arms of government,” he said.

The two sides agreed a contract in 2005 for the local authority to provide engineering works for the £10 million runway extension into the sea.

In 2011 the airport operator raised a legal action claiming the council was in breach of contract. Earlier this week HIAL was cleared to go ahead with the claim.


Meanwhile last July, first minister Alex Salmond announced £12 million of extra government cash to pay for necessary repairs to be carried out as quickly as possible.

Now, Scott says, it appears as though the government wants that money back from the local authority.

The MSP said: “This is a ludicrous position to be in. And when you add the fact that Alex Salmond announced when the cabinet was here in summer that £12 million had been found to sort out the problem, then, I am at a lost to understand why this court case is allowed to happen.

“What I have suggested in a letter to the transport minister Keith Brown is that ministers step in and resolve this matter behind the scene with both parties, giving that it is public money chasing public money.”

Transport Scotland said on Thursday that they encouraged both parties to reach a negotiated settlement.

The legal dispute will be one topic on the agenda when local government Derek Mackay visits the isles nest week as part of the ministerial working group on the Our Islands, Our Future process.