Councillor calls on HIAL to scrap Nessy, focus on performance and scrap Air Traffic Control plans
Councillor Mackie attacks airport operator and pleads for regional focus
Recent warnings, such as those by CNRP at this weeks Council meeting hammer home importance of air links to the Far North of Scotland.
Poor airline performance, adverse changes to timetabled services and the decision to move to a centralised air traffic centre are knocking confidence in air travel according to Cllr Struan Mackie, The Highland Conservative's transport spokesman.
"We need HIAL to take the lead and show some real commitment towards the rural areas their airports serve. The Caithness Transport Forum and Wick John O'Groats Airport Consultative Committee are making every attempt to secure a Public Service Obligation on one of our routes but this comes amongst the background noise of bad news stories concerning the Scottish Government owned entity".
"The decision to move ATC facilities to Inverness cost the taxpayer £18,000 in consulting fees. With the determination to locate the new set up in the Highland Capital coming down heavily in favour of the Highland Capital due to the larger presence of staff already in the area".
"The Highland public have been forced to pay handsomely for information we knew already and for a result that we always felt had a degree of inevitability to it. Centralisation never benefits communities such as Caithness, The Western Isles or the Orkneys".
"As an organisation which champions connecting these locations as part of its tax-payer funded role... surely that means HIAL, more so than other organisations, should have greater scrutiny and its commitment to remote communities be held to account on delivering localism far more than other agenices."
Inverness Airport has seen explosive growth over the last number of years, with regular services that connect the Highlands to hubs like Amsterdam Schiphol and London's Heathrow. "You can connect to almost anywhere in the world, starting your journey in the Highlands and that is a genuine success story" said Cllr Mackie.
"But the success of HIAL's jewel in the crown comes in stark contrast to other airports such as Wick or Dundee. Where constant uncertainty about operators commitments are repeatedly echoed by the business community and regular travellers".
"Whilst this should be the top priority for HIAL, they have been running an online poll gauging the support to tie Nessy into the airport branding for Inverness! Whoever Scottish Ministers appoint to the role of Chairman, I urge them to deliver for the whole of the Highlands for residents, visitors and business travellers.