Government must intervene in the air traffic controllers dispute to protect the Western Isles economy, says MSP

Donald Cameron MSP (Highlands and Islands – Scottish Conservative), Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, has expressed grave concern about the effect of the continuing dispute on the Western Isles economy, given that both Benbecula and Stornoway airports will be closed by strikes on Thursday 23rd May.

Mr Cameron said: “I am becoming increasingly worried about the longer term effect of this dispute on businesses in the Western Isles.

“The impact on the day concerned will cause inconvenience, but the longer term the impact could prove corrosive to business confidence.

“Those running businesses must be certain that they and their employees can get where they need to go, and we simply cannot afford the islands’ airport network to be affected in the long term, given that local residents, visitors and businesses are all dependent on reliable transport services in a way unlike very few other areas in the UK.

“I urge the SNP Government, which of course controls Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), to step in and resolve this disputes once and for all, to protect the local economy of the islands, which is particularly vulnerable to this kind of disruption.”

And he also condemned the SNP Government after Transport Secretary Michael Matheson admitted that two new ferries, one of which should be serving the Western Isles, will be delayed until at least next year.

Mr Cameron said: “The Comhairle and other stakeholders have been urging Nicola Sturgeon’s Government to grasp this issue for years.

“And yet the Transport Secretary has had to come to Parliament and try to explain away another delay in improving the service.

“I’m afraid that this represents another entry in a catalogue of failures on Scotland’s ferry networks, once again letting island communities down and impacting negatively on tourism, businesses and connectivity.

“Communities from the Northern Isles down to Argyll are united in expressing their dismay at these continued failures to deliver on promises made by the SNP.

“It is quite clear that the Government in Holyrood is fixated on the Central Belt and trying to create the conditions for a second independence referendum.

"Rural Scotland comes a long way down their priority list”

This report has been updated since first being published