North MSP bidding to slash flight prices for Highland folk

MSP Gail Ross.

A North MSP hopes to slash the price of flights to and from Wick to make life easier for local passengers and to boost the local economy.

Gail Ross, the SNP member for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, has asked transport minister Humza Yousaf to press for Public Service Obligation (PSO) status to be granted for its routes.

PSOs, which are imposed under European law, benefit remote communities in a similar way to the Scottish Government’s Road Equivalent Tariff scheme that subsidises ferry travel.

The cost-cutting initiative currently operates on Dundee-Stansted flights and those linking Glasgow with Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown.

Mrs Ross said: “Wick flights are a real lifeline for many of us, here in the north.

“Not only do they provide essential travel for medical purposes, they also provide businesses and workers with the means to commute and to carry out business effectively.

“I’m concerned that these routes aren’t enjoying the full protection that other airports enjoy.

“At a time where real progress is being made in Caithness and north Sutherland in terms of economic development, it would be a disaster to lose our regular routes to the south.”

She has written to her party colleague hoping he can begin formal dialogue about future flights.

Her letter prioritises flights linking Wick and Edinburgh that are currently operated by Flybe but soon to switch to Loganair, and the Wick-Aberdeen route operated by Eastern Airways.

“I understand these are costly services for the operating company to run and as such, could be under threat if the service sees a drop in custom,” Mrs Ross said.

The routes are considered vital to the far north economy by providing easy access to and from the central belt for leisure and business use, and for patients needing certain medical treatment.

Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles said: “We’re proud to have maintained services between Wick and Edinburgh since 1981.

“We continue to develop connectivity, launching the first Sunday flights while adding extra flights to our schedule this summer to further the growth of the route and will continue to engage constructively with any efforts or support to enhance our service to the community.”