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Transport / Decision to move flights from Scatsta Airport came as ‘genuine surprise’ to council

The final flight leaving Scatsta in June. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

OIL and gas flights moving from Scatsta Airport to Sumburgh came as a “genuine surprise” to landowner Shetland Islands Council (SIC).

That is the view of manager of assets, commissioning and procurement Robert Sinclair, who discussed the closure of the airport at a meeting of the SIC’s policy and resources committee on Monday.

The airport closed at the end of June after the contract to run the oil and gas helicopter and plane flights offshore and to Aberdeen respectively changed hands to a consortium of Babock and Loganair.

The flights have since been running from Sumburgh Airport, with scores of jobs lost in the North Mainland as a result.

The issue was raised during the meeting by Westside member Theo Smith, who noted in a report to councillors that there was a projected loss of income to the SIC of £221,000 this financial year arising from the Scatsta lease ending earlier than anticipated.

Finance chief Jamie Manson said the full income from the lease was factored into the council’s budget for the year, with no termination expected.

Sinclair added: “We had to set a budget based on our best assessment of where we would end up. The decision of the operator to move to a different airport came as a genuine surprise.

“We were not able to have an arrangement in place with the consortium that went past the end of June, simply because that was when the contract came to an end. We were basically operating on a month to month basis up until that point.”

He said “we negotiated terms that were reasonable to both parties up until the end of June”, once the original contract came to an end, adding that the operator of the airport had been unable to commit long-term.

Expressions of interest were sought by the council for using most of the now unused buildings at Scatsta, with Sinclair confirming this has had a good take-up from a “variety of areas”.

None of the interest relates to aviation, however.

“We would be hopeful that we would mitigate the effect of this loss by bringing income from alternative uses of the facilities, and that figure will hopefully reduce as the year goes on,” Sinclair said.

In July it was revealed by Shetland News that the team behind the proposed Shetland Space Centre had submitted an expression of interest.

Shetland Islands Council became the owner of the land and the majority of the buildings at Scatsta Airport after acquiring the portfolio of Shetland Charitable Trust’s property arm SLAP in 2018.