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Transport minister says Sumburgh Airport car park charge the ‘only option’ to avoid cuts

SCOTTISH transport minister Humza Yousaf has said introducing a car parking charge at the loss-making Sumburgh Airport is the “only option” if services are to be kept at their current level.

He said during a visit to Shetland on Friday that adding 40p to the landing charge for airlines which has been mooted as an alternative to the parking fee isn’t viable because it would mean Loganair would have to cut back its flight timetable.

The MSP also confirmed that he has offered to hold discussions with Shetland Islands Council (SIC) on how to make public transport links to Sumburgh Airport more reliable.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said after meeting Yousaf that the board of government owned Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) should “stand up for their airports” and ask for more money to run its services instead of charging for parking (see video clip).

HIAL announced in March that it will introduce a £3 a day parking charge at its Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Stornoway airports from July.

Not only did the plans themselves come under fire, but so did HIAL’s lack of consultation – with the public only now being questioned about the proposals.

Sumburgh Airport’s annual deficit is usually between £400,000 and £600,000 and while Yousaf admitted a car parking charge would be unpopular, he described it as the “only option”.

The minister, who met Scott alongside members of the SIC to discuss the matter, said that the airport had to be run sustainably.

“HIAL have looked at various options, but in order to make sure that Sumburgh is operating at less of a loss – it is operating at a loss at the moment – [and] to reduce that deficit, to not cut services, then the only option is to bring in car parking charges,” he said.

“What they will consult on, and what they’re doing at the moment, is saying look, where are there possible concessions to be made? Tavish Scott today gave me some suggestions on where those concessions could come in. HIAL should be open minded to that.”

Yousaf said that he has heard representations from the council that the public transport to the airport is “not good”.

“I’ve said to the council that I’m happy to have a discussion with you to see how we can better public transport to the airport.”