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Transport / MSP quizzes Scottish Government on help for Highlands and Islands air routes

It follows Loganair’s suspension of Sumburgh/Inverness services over the winter

A HIGHLANDS and Islands MSP has asked the Scottish Government if it will take any action on Loganair’s recent decision to suspend flights between Shetland and Inverness during the winter.

The airline said last week that it was stopping flights between Sumburgh and Inverness and Glasgow until March due to continued low demand resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant. Photo: Shetland News

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has now lodged a parliamentary question asking what action the Scottish Government is taking in response.

None of the routes connecting Shetland to the mainland or Orkney are subsided by the government, unlike some air services in Scotland such as Glasgow to Campbeltown.

The Scottish Government does, however, provide the Air Discount Scheme for Highlands and Islands routes, giving islanders 50 per cent off fares.

Grant has also asked the government “what assessment it has made of the impact on Highlands and Islands air routes of the Covid-19 restrictions, and what action it is taking to protect the region’s aviation connectivity”.

The MSP also raised Loganair’s suspended service between Wick and Edinburgh, and Eastern Airways’ Wick and Aberdeen route.

“It’s vitally important the Scottish Government preserves and protects all the region’s air routes,” she said.

“These are lifeline services and should be recognised as such. It shows the need for more public service obligations to protect our routes to our islands and remote communities.”

Speaking last week, Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “Changing flights and suspending routes is a step we do not take lightly, but where travel demand remains at less than half of last year’s levels due to the pandemic, we simply cannot fly near-empty aeroplanes to maintain a full schedule.”

Some Sumburgh/Glasgow flights will, however, take place over the festive period.