Transport / Council keen to start conversation around ‘fair funding’ for internal flights

An Islander plane touching down in Skerries before flights there stopped.

SHETLAND Islands Council is looking to start discussions with government around whether the idea of ‘fair funding’ already secured for its ferries could also apply for its internal air service.

At the moment Shetland Islands Council contracts Airtask to run small islander flights from Tingwall Airport to Fair Isle and Foula. Skerries was removed from the timetable a few years ago.

After a fairly protracted campaign the council now sees its deficit in running its inter-island ferries covered by cash from the Scottish Government to the tune of millions, with that commitment set to continue in 2023/24 amid increased fuel costs.

Chief executive Maggie Sandison said the council may explore whether this principle could be applied to flights.

She said in the past that having to use general funding from the Scottish Government to cover ferries was effectively to the detriment financially of other day to day local authority services, like roads, refuse collection and education.


“We have always been focused very much on getting the position right on ferries, because that’s the largest area of budget,” Sandison told Shetland News.

“But clearly running an islander [air] service for our remote communities is a cost that other councils don’t bear as well.

“We want to start the conversation about air services and whether having established that principle of fair funding, does it apply to the other things?”

Sandison also said the needs of the community in Fair Isle and Foula cannot be met solely by a ferry.

“They need to have an air service because of the extreme weather that they have,” she added. “For some weeks in the winter they don’t have access to ferries.”

When the current year’s financial budget was set around £1 million was designated for supporting the inter-island air service, with roughly £70,000 allocated to Tingwall Airport and other airstrips.

The budget setting process for 2023/24 is due to take place in the council chamber later this month.

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