Caithness Councillors Unanimously Backs Business Case For Wick John OGroats Airport PSO
23rd October 2020
At the Caithness Area Committee on 22 October 2020 members unanimously confirmed their full support to the business case for Wick John O'Groats Airport to receive Public Service Obligation (PSO) status by putting forward a motion and reinforcing their commitment to working with stakeholders and partners to deliver this as a matter of urgency.
The motion lodged recognises the fundamental strategic importance of Wick John O’Groats Airport to the economy of the region, and the energy, business and tourism sectors in particular. The Committee is calling for the Council to identify financial support to secure the onward sustainability of the airport.
Motion - Caithness Area Committee recognises the fundamental strategic importance of Wick John O’Groats Airport to the economy of the region, and the energy, business and tourism sectors in particular. Caithness members confirm their full support for the Public Service Obligation and their commitment to working with stakeholders and partners to deliver this as a matter of urgency. Caithness Area Committee further calls on Highland Council to identify financial support to secure the onward sustainability of the Airport.
Chair of the Committee Councillor Nicola Sinclair spoke passionately about the strategic and critical role the airport plays. She said: "The motion sees us stand alongside our public and private sector partners in underlining the critical role of Wick John O’Groats Airport in the economy of Caithness and indeed Highland.
"Covid-19, has sadly provided the backdrop to the recent collapse first of our services to Edinburgh and then later our flights to Aberdeen. Nobody saw the pandemic coming but it’s fair to say that stakeholders were aware of the threat to the Airport for many months. We observed declining passenger numbers and issues with scheduling, reliability and affordability. It’s to their credit that Caithness Chamber of Commerce, CNSRP and other partners were drafting contingency plans as far back as April 2019 so the business case for a Public Service Obligation is ready to go forward. I want to emphasise that this is a business case and not an approach to the Scottish Government to bail out an unsustainable service. A PSO for Wick John O’Groats Airport is an investment in Caithness, in Highland and in our ambitions towards a greener economy.
“I believe that a PSO for Wick JOG Airport is crucial in our post-Dounreay economy. It is required throughout the decommissioning process and will be even more important in the diversification of the economy after Dounreay. It will support the development of onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal opportunities in the Pentland, the significant redevelopment of our Harbours, the UK vertical launch space port, expanded manufacturing and equality of access to the central belt and beyond for our business sector."
Councillor Struan Mackie who seconded the motion emphasised his belief that the airport has a vital role to play post-Covid. He said: “I am delighted that this important motion has been passed unanimously by Caithness Committee. Wick John O’Groats Airport is of strategic importance to the Far North and I believe it will prove to be a key asset that will help deliver a post-COVID economic recovery for the region.
“Over the last number of months it has been refreshing to be part of a cross community campaign, with stakeholders, businesses groups and individuals all seeking a solution in resuming flights from Wick. After years of progressive market failure in providing regular and convenient services from the airport, it is clear that the public service obligation is the only option left on the table.
“The work undertaken by the Caithness Chamber of Commerce has made the very clear business case for re-establishing our air connections with Aberdeen and Edinburgh through a PSO. This motion is hopefully the first step in seeing this come to fruition and we now ask that both Scottish Government and the Highland Council can now take this forward by financially supporting the return scheduled air services to Wick John O’Groats."
In June the Leader of The Highland Council wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, raising her deepest concerns over Eastern Airways decision to withdraw their Wick to Aberdeen Service and highlighted her support for the business case for a PSO that has been presented to Transport Scotland and which she has discussed previously with Mr Matheson.
The Highland Council will discuss the motion put forward by the Caithness Committee at a meeting of the Council on Thursday 29 October.