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Coronavirus / Government ready to step in and support air services again

THE SCOTTISH Government says it will “intervene if necessary” again to financially support essential air services in the Highlands and Islands if another nationwide lockdown was imposed.

The government funded a skeleton service in the region during lockdown earlier this year while commercial services were suspended.

Airlines such as Loganair have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Shetland News

Up to early June this amounted to a cost of over £1.3 million.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “While services are currently operating on a commercial basis, we are keeping the situation under constant review and will intervene again if necessary.”

Airlines such as Loganair have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with flights to and from Shetland and Glasgow and Inverness for instance shelved this winter due to a lack of demand.

Matheson said in a parliamentary answer that “since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic we [the government] have kept in close contact with airlines, airports and other stakeholders to understand the impact of Covid-19 on air services”.

“We have significantly increased our subsidy of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited [HIAL] to ensure that their airports remain open throughout this period to serve their communities’ travel needs,” he said.

Last month Shetland News revealed that millions of pounds ‘saved’ by the government due to reduced demand for the Air Discount Scheme subsidy was being re-routed to HIAL after its bills increased.

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said all parties were working constructively on the matter.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021