Airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) should wait for the outcome of the UK government’s aviation security review before deciding whether to impose car parking charges at Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Stornoway airports, according to Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur.
The issue will discussed by the HIAL board on Friday, but the MSPs have pointed out that the security review may lead to the use of an EU directive which could reduce the cost of security at the island airports, meaning the imposition of parking charges is unnecessary.
The directive on aviation (EU300/2008) allows reduced levels of security for flights operated by aircraft of less than 15 tonnes maximum take-off weight. All the aircraft currently undertaking scheduled flights to and from HIAL’s island airports fall below this limit.
Mr Scott said: “The driving force behind HIAL’s wish to impose car parking charges is that it offers a way to make up the shortfall they face in their budget because the Scottish government has cut their funding.
“But this is not the only way they can cut their charges. Many feel that the level of security imposed at the islands airports is higher than is needed. If the UK government decides to apply the EU directive to the island air services, so reducing the level of security, HIAL should be able to cut its costs at all of its islands airports. That seems the best way to deal with the cut to HIAL’s budget, rather than by targeting those who have to park at their three big island airports.”
Mr McArthur added: “The case against the car parking charges remains as strong as ever. Parking charges would add still further to the cost of using our lifeline air services, hitting many individuals and businesses. For many, leaving their car at the airport is the only practical option open to them. Parking charges offer an easy option for HIAL but they must not rush into imposing them when other options, such as applying more appropriate levels of security, have not been fully explored.”