Vital air services to three tiny islands have been saved just days after the flights faced being suspended due to a contract disagreement.
Argyll and Bute Council and Hebridean Air Services Ltd (HASL) have agreed in principle to a new three year public service obligation (PSO) contract to keep flights from Oban Airport to Coll, Colonsay and Tiree.
The current contract, which was due to end next Friday, is now being extended by one month to allow for legal and technical checks to the contract and ensure continuity of service.
The local authority has a budget of £2.12million for these services for the next three years.
Initially, HASLA wanted an increase in this subsidy because of rising aviation costs.
However, new talks got underway this week and a deal was struck late on Thursday evening.
Chairman of the Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee, councillor Roddy McCuish, said: ”HASL reassured us over the weekend of its commitment to providing island flights and I am absolutely delighted that we were able to come to a positive agreement.
‘”We as a council are committed to supporting our island communities as much as we can. Despite the challenging financial climate we have dedicated over £2million to continuing this service.
‘”We are pleased that HASL has worked with us to reach this agreement which secures the outcome everyone wants – a sustainable future for these lifeline services.
‘”This in principle agreement ensures island communities will stay connected, provides best value for the taxpayer and makes the service sustainable.
‘”Our focus throughout this process has been on supporting people living on these islands. We have worked hard to get to this stage and we are happy we can give those people the comfort that the service will continue.”
Director of HASL, George Cormack, said: ‘”I am really happy we have come to a mutual agreement and we look forward to continuing to deliver a high level of service, as we have done over the past four years.”
The council’s current contract with HASL was due to end on May 15, and HASL had to give notice within 14 days that it would be discontinuing the service to comply with EU legislation.