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‘Lack of clarity’ on sanctions after Inverness-Moscow flight row

A row has broken out after a Moscow-bound flight left Inverness Airport on Saturday - after sanctions were put in place.

Scotland’s transport secretary is calling for clarity on sanctions imposed on Russia, after a private flight left Inverness for Moscow on Saturday.

Michael Matheson faced questions at Holyroood over the incident, which has sparked questions over “loopholes” in restrictions.

Following Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, a Notice of Air Missions order was issued banning all services operated by aircraft owned, operated, leased or registered in Russia in UK airspace on Friday.

But on Saturday, an Estonian-registered jet operated by private jet firm Panaviatic left Inverness for Moscow.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro-Johnston asked the cabinet secretary to give a commitment he would investigate.

‘Delay’ in information

Mr Matheson confirmed an order was issued but said there was a “delay” in information being provided by the Civil Aviation Authority to airport operators which was “not provided on Friday itself”.

The transport secretary said the flight had been given clearance by air traffic control service NATS as “complying with the sanctions regime in place at that particular point”.

He continued: “So the proper procedures were followed at that particular point but clearly there are some areas where there is a lack of clarity around some aspects of the sanctions regime.

Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson.

“These are matters we will continue to pursue with the UK government to ensure everyone has clarity of the detail around how the sanctions should be applied and agencies can be in a position where they can sufficiently enforce them.”

A row had  broken out between SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps over the incident.

Mr Blackford claimed Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) was only informed of the regulations 24 hours after they came into effect, and after the flight had departed.

He called for Mr Shapps to “tighten the restrictions” so there are not “loopholes that allow flights with a final destination of Moscow”.

However, the UK transport secretary hit back at the SNP politician and rebuffed the claim that HIAL had not been informed of the sanctions.

A spokesman for the airport previously said the private jet departed prior to a notification from the Civil Aviation Authority being received at 7.15pm that day.

He added that UK agencies had been contacted before the decision to fly, including from the NATS Centre at Prestwick.

A Department for Transport spokesman said:“The UK has imposed a ban on all aircraft owned, chartered or operated by a person connected with Russia, or which is registerin Russia, flying in UK airspace.

“A NOTAM (Notice to Aviation) was issued on February 25 by NATS on behalf of the UK Government informing all aviation stakeholders and a SIREN was also issued by the CAA on the 26th.

“It is the responsibility of aviation stakeholders to ensure they are monitoring and complying with NOTAMs.”

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