Council Leader requests meeting on future of Wick Airport
25th June 2020
The Leader of The Highland Council has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, raising her deepest concerns over Eastern Airways decision to withdraw their Wick - Aberdeen Service.
The decision by Eastern Airways follows Loganair's earlier decision to withdraw its Wick-Edinburgh route, which now leaves Wick John O'Groats Airport with no commercial services operating.
Council Leader, Margaret Davidson said: "This is a deeply disappointing decision and one which further demonstrates the need for an ambitious new approach to protecting our vital regional aviation links. I support the business case that has been presented to Transport Scotland for a Public Service Obligation (PSO) from Wick which I have discussed previously with Mr Matheson. In my letter sent yesterday, I have requested a meeting so we discuss how the business case for a PSO can be moved forward as quickly as possible and what other measures could be put in place to support Wick John O’Groats Airport."
Caithness Councillors hope the Cabinet Secretary gives the concerns raised his immediate attention.
Chair of the Caithness Committee, Councillor Matthew Reiss said: "No ifs, no buts. If Dundee airport has a PSO, we need one to secure the future of Wick airport too. When the Transport Minister met with the local Chamber of Commerce last August the risks to Wick were unambiguously spelled out to him. The Chamber have done a power of work outlining a possible solution and my fellow councillors and I will continue to raise the future of the airport as a priority with our MSP and the Minister."
The Caithness Civic Leader, Cllr Willie Mackay added: “Having regular and reliable air links is going to be crucial when it comes to driving forward our economy and I believe it will put us in a better position to recover from the impacts of Covid-19. I am impressed with the excellent work done to date to raise the issue. There is no doubt, a very strong case has been put forward for our airport to receive the necessary subsidies to help safeguard its future.”
Wick Councillor Nicola Sinclair added: “I would like to reassure people that we’re very much on the case and are closely collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce and our MSP and will continue to do all we can to protect the airport.”
Following the freezing of some charges and suspension of enforcement for others during the lockdown period, The Highland Council has been following a phased return to normal operations since the 26th of June. Further details are given below.
Many Highland Council tenants may be missing out on help towards their rent from Universal Credit because they have not notified the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of their annual rent increase which came into effect on the 30th March 2020. Those tenants who have not yet reported their rent increase could be facing a shortfall in the help they receive towards their rent, putting them at risk of rent arrears.
The Highland Council is updating parents and carers of its position on early learning and childcare (ELC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Scottish Government removed the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to deliver 1140 hours of ELC from August.
Following on from the recent publication of Highland Council's Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - the Council is announcing relaxation of some controls that will assist tourist accommodation providers have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recognition of this where there are specific planning and licensing controls in relation to occupancy, for example: a restriction on the occupancy of any caravan for a continuous 12 month period; or where conditions restrict occupancy for specific periods of time, ...these will be relaxed by the Council up to and including April 2021.
The Caithness Committee met virtual today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and it's agenda focused on the actions taken by the Council and the third sector to deal with the effects of Coronavirus in Caithness. The Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, gave members an update on the plans and preparations underway to prepare for the return of pupils and staff to Caithness schools in August.
Margaret Davidson, the Leader of the Highland Council has given her strong support to the efforts of the Scottish Government to obtain greater fiscal flexibility from the UK Government. The Scottish Government have sought flexibility to offset capital underspend against resource expenditure, more flexibility over resource borrowing and greater flexibility over the use of the reserve for capital.
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The Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning. Prior to Covid-19, we had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of our ICT in Learning Strategy.
Earlier today (Wednesday 1 July 2020) members of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss (by video conference) progress made with the Corran Ferry Project which is reviewing the options for securing a replacement ferry and considering the way forward for the future operation and management of the service. The Corran ferry service has reached a critical point and strategic decisions need to be made.
As Scotland prepares for the easing of lockdown and the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, The Highland Council's Environmental Health are advising holiday accommodation providers to make sure their private water supplies are safe to drink. A large number of self-catering and tourist accommodation in the Highlands are served by private water supplies and with these being closed during the lockdown period, the water supply system may not have been maintained and could create a risk to the quality and safety of the drinking water.