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Letters / A bit hypocritical

Open letter to Humza Yousaf, Scottish Government minister for transport and the islands.

Dear Mr Yousaf

I AM extremely disappointed with the press reports following your visit to Shetland last week. You are reported as saying that ” HIAL have looked at various options … but the only option is to bring in car parking charges …”.

I would have thought that as Transport and Islands Minister it is key to your role to protect the economy and communities of the islands. Am I correct in that?

If so I feel you are in part failing in your role.

I have already asked you if HIAL came to you requesting additional funding to avoid the ‘tax’ of parking charges, I am awaiting your answer.

You have said that “HIAL have looked at various options…” What are these other options that have been ruled out? You say that parking charges are needed to have HIAL “…not cut services…”. What services might they have had to cut?

Sumburgh Airport has, over the last 18 months or so, had some maintenance of the airport building, particularly new cladding. This is the first major maintenance, apart from the heating system refurbishment in 2010 that I am aware of since the Wilsness Terminal building was opened in 1979.

I understand the changes also included a new lounge for offshore flight passengers. When I asked about a new lounge for domestic flight passengers, as exist at most other airports, I was told this was not planned. Could not offshore flight passengers easily had the landing charges for their flights adjusted to help pay for changes that benefit them?

You are quoted in the Shetland News (Transport minister says Sumburgh Airport car park charge the ‘only option’ to avoid cuts; SN, 24/04/2018) as saying ” …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.”

I would be grateful if you could explain the reasoning behind that statement. I cannot understand how a change in landing charges can lead to a cut back in a flight timetable. Surely Loganair could simply add the additional charge to fares? I suspect passengers would be happier to pay that rather than a £3/day parking charge.

We all know that as airports that are part of lifeline services to the islands they cannot expect to break even or run at a profit.

The SNP government, when led by Alex Salmond, abolished tolls on bridges in Scotland and parking charges at hospitals under direct ownership of health boards.

Imposing parking charges at government owned airfields is now a bit hypocritical. How can you square that?

I urge you to insist that HIAL, who are owned by the Scottish Government, cease in their plan to introduce parking charges at Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Stornoway airports.

I look forward to answers to all my questions and to your assurance that you will ensure HIAL think again and bin the idea of car parking charges.

John Dally


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