Jamie backs innovative travel plans but says minister must focus on islands’ current needs

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has said the Scottish Government should not to become distracted by futuristic travel solutions at the expense of the island communities’ current transport needs.

The Scottish Conservative MSP has repeatedly raised concerns from local communities over the reliability and sustainability of current transports links, arguing that resolving these issues must be Transport Minister Michael Matheson’s main focus.

Mr Matheson is reported to have said that electric planes are being considered for routes to island destinations, and are a “preferred option”.

Mr Halcro Johnston said:  “Electric-powered aircraft on short routes in places like Orkney and Shetland could be one way forward for more environmentally sustainable travel, and I welcome the ambition of Loganair to introduce this kind of aircraft to these routes.

“And I have argued previously that a truly innovative approach to sustainable travel in the Northern Isles should include looking at more fixed links between some of our island communities, improving connectively between islands and allowing better delivery of public services.

“However, what is concerning people in Orkney and Shetland is the ongoing uncertainty over our current transport arrangements. Air links are still expensive for visitors, the SNP’s promised reduced fares on the ferries to and from the Northern Isles is still undelivered, and growing financial pressures on local councils meaning existing inter-island ferry links are threatened long-term.

“And, of course, the Scottish Government has failed to sort out the industrial dispute that continues to afflict the HIAL airports that serve our island communities, washing their hands of the issue and saying it’s for HIAL – which they own – to sort out.

“As well as the impact on local people and local businesses, potential visitors to the islands have, for two summer seasons in a row now, faced uncertainty on how much they’ll actually have to pay to come to the islands.

“The SNP Government needs to wake up to the fact that our island communities are utterly dependent on reliable and fairly-priced transport links and until they are delivered we are bound to be sceptical when we hear fine-sounding ministerial pronouncements about the “third revolution” of air travel.”