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Airport boycott threatened over parking fee

THE CHAIRMAN of Shetland Islands Council’s transport committee has threatened to boycott Sumburgh Airport if operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) goes ahead with its planned car park charge.

Ryan Thomson, writing on his North Isles councillor Facebook page, said he will refuse to pay the £3 a day charge when it is implemented in July and get the boat south instead of flying if he had to drive to the airport and park.

Fellow isles councillor Duncan Simpson also said he wouldn’t be paying, while former SIC leader and soon-to-be NHS Shetland chairman Gary Robinson said he would find an alternative to the Sumburgh car park when flying.

A spokesman for HIAL said on Monday that the company had no direct response to Thomson at this time.

The North Isles councillor said the charge, which will also come into force at HIAL’s Kirkwall and Stornoway airports, is “disgusting”.

He said the Scottish Government – which effectively owns HIAL – was “disgraceful” for not stopping the charges.

The charge was announced in March without any prior consultation, although HIAL – which said it is under “increasing budgetary constraints” – has undertaken a passenger survey in recent weeks.

Sumburgh Airport usually has a deficit of between £400,000 and £600,000 and it is understood that the car parking fee could bring in £150,000 a year.

“What are these charges going towards?” Thomson asked.

“HIAL say it’s to help balance the books. If that is the case why are they asking in their pathetic survey ‘what improvements would you like to see that could be funded by these parking charges’?

“That says to me these are not needed, not required, and simply confirms they are an additional burden on islanders. An island tax being pushed through as quickly as possible while an island bill is being debated in parliament.

“People won’t pay this tax, quite rightly. Islanders will find a way around this. I’ve lost count how many people have said they will now take the ferry as first choice transport to the mainland.”

Thomson called on islands and transport minister Humza Yousaf to “do the right thing” and listen to counter proposals and public dissatisfaction.

“To do otherwise would be a dereliction of your duty as our islands minister,” he continued.

“Put a halt to these charges while a proper impact assessment is done, if you were to do one it would be clear as to why these ludicrous charges should not go ahead.

“I will be refusing to pay these charges, boycotting Sumburgh Airport if required.”

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