UHI Shetland - Open the door to your future
Sunday 23 June 2024
 11.4°C   W Moderate Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

News / Pressure builds on HIAL

Car parking barriers at Sumburgh Airport. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

GOVERNMENT-owned airport operator Highland and Islands Airports (HIAL) has come under renewed pressure for its alleged failure to serve rural communities.

Responding to news that HIAL is reviewing its water rescue provision at seven of its 11 airports, including Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Stornoway, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said he would raise the issue directly with Scottish ministers to ensure that local communities have a proper input to the review.

He said he had lost all trust in communicating with the airport operator after it introduced car parking charges at Sumburgh without any local consultation.

“Sumburgh’s geographic position is clear to everyone but apparently not to HIAL. It is surrounded by sea and I wonder if the HIAL board even knows where we are based on this assessment of risk,” he said.

“As there is no point in communicating with HIAL who did not have the courtesy of any Shetland consultation, I will be raising this with Scottish ministers.”

His comments late on Thursday came after the dissatisfaction many rural communities feel with the way HIAL operates was highlighted in parliament by two Highlands and Islands MSPs, John Finnie for the Greens and Tavish Scott.

Finnie said the airport operator was failing in its duties, quoting Inverness Airport’s ‘very poor’ environmental compliance rating from SEPA, the potential threat of strike action from air traffic controllers over fears of centralisation and the lack of consulting remote, rural and island communities on important issues including the introduction of parking charges.

Earlier this week Tavish Scott MSP took the bus to the airport in protest against the newly introduced car parking charges at Sumburgh. Photo: Daniel Lawson/BBC

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“I gave the cabinet secretary for transport the opportunity to express confidence in HIAL’s management and it won’t be lost on HIAL, and the wider public, that he chose not to endorse their performance,” Finnie said.

HIAL’s managing director Inglis Lyon responded by saying the company has one again invited Finnie to a meeting to address his concerns.

“This is the third time we have attempted to engage with Mr Finnie and we would be delighted if he took up the opportunity,” Lyon said.

He added that throughout the introduction of car parking charges HIAL had “carried out a wide-ranging stakeholder engagement programme”.

“This included consulting with numerous stakeholders which yielded a number of changes which were outlined in a letter to Mr Finnie in May this year following the consultation.

“The money raised from the charges is being continuously reinvested to maintain and ultimately improve facilities, ensuring the long-term resilience of airport operations on the islands.”

Meanwhile, HIAL said that it had been in “discussion with ZetTrans” [Shetland’s Transport Partnership] with regards to making changes to the local bus service timetable to and from Sumburgh Airport to help better serve the residents of Shetland”.

Earlier on Thursday Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson told parliament that the government had encouraged HIAL to work with the local authority on the matter.

However, Shetland Islands Council said on Friday that so far HIAL had made just one approach and no detailed discussions on the matter had taken place.

ZetTrans chairman, councillor Ryan Thomson, said the south mainland bus was not a dedicated airport service.

“If they [HIAL] feel one is required, we would be happy to work with them and the Scottish Government, on the provision that full costs are incurred by either HIAL or the government, and not the SIC,” he said.

Thomson, meanwhile, has said that HIAL has changed its policy on the car parking charge exemption for people living on Shetland’s outer islands. He said the rule has changed from one car per household to one car per person.

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.