Sunday 14 July 2024
 11.1°C   NNE Fresh Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Viewpoint / Editorial: HIAL car parking charges appear unjust

GIVEN the public response last time, if you were feeling charitable you could almost forgive Sumburgh Airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) for skipping a public consultation on the introduction of car parking charges seven years on.

But if the publicity masterplan second time around was aimed at lessening the inevitable backlash, it is difficult to imagine many more counterproductive strategies.

A measure like this is never going to be popular. But announcing it without consulting public services provider Shetland Islands Council, elected representatives at Lerwick Town Hall and Holyrood or the Sumburgh Airport consultative committee [the clue is in the name] was simply an insult to the community.

Petition launched after HIAL vows to introduce Sumburgh car parking charges

Behind the scenes there appears to be legitimate concern about the capacity of the car park, and the length of time some vehicles are left there – though given the volume of workers heading offshore for shift work that may in a lot of cases be unavoidable.

And, granted, most major airports around the world do now charge people for parking. But most major airports around the world are not sited on a remote, wind-battered and fog-prone peninsula over 20 miles from the nearest large town.

If you don’t drive to the airport, you rely on a patchy bus timetable that doesn’t always tie in with flight departures and arrivals, which are also much more prone to delays due to weather or other issues. Or, unless you live nearby, you fork out upwards of £50 for a taxi.

Shetlanders face an extortionately high cost of living in general and already have to spend a fortune travelling on and off the islands.

Passenger numbers at Sumburgh have also increased massively in recent years. That must make it one of the more profitable of HIAL’s operations. Surely means can be found to offer a few more extra parking spaces without clobbering islanders to pay for the installation of pay stations and barriers?

Become a supporter of Shetland News


If HIAL thinks implementing these charges is the way to go – and that seems dubious at best – then surely it must have recognised there will be knock-on implications.

Despite Thursday’s statement saying HIAL is “committed to being open and transparent”, its PR operation has now gone to ground, saying it won’t answer further questions ahead of a meeting with the SIC – to initiate dialogue sought by the council – next week.

And HIAL’s management have some serious explaining to do. If people have to fork out £42 to park at Sumburgh while on a fortnight’s holiday, or even a three-figure sum for those working offshore for five or six weeks at a time, the council may well have to look at expanding its bus timetable. Is that viable and affordable? We don’t know. HIAL certainly doesn’t, because it never bothered asking.

Though hindsight clearly wasn’t necessary to envisage the fallout, now that the public are making their feelings plain HIAL would do well to put its plans on hold so that islanders can participate in a proper debate about what, on the face of it, seems an unjust and wrongheaded proposal.

We would urge islanders to sign the petition already circulating in opposition to the charges, and call on Scottish transport and islands minister Humza Yousaf to intervene and ensure there is proper “island-proofing” of this policy.

Shetland News

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.