The future of Tingwall Airport, which is under scrutiny as part of a transport review which will be presented to councillors in the autumn, was discussed at today’s environment and transport committee meeting.
The operations of the small airport north of Lerwick which serves the outer isles, as well as the air ambulance, featured on a long list of proposals for savings. More than 30 major reviews are going on across the council into cutting services.
Councillor Jonathan Wills asked if the time was approaching to consider whether the airport was still necessary. Service manager Stephen Cooper said the contract for the airport will last until next year and cheaper staffing options were being looked at.
Speaking after the meeting, committee chairman Allan Wishart said work was ongoing to evaluate the importance of Tingwall versus Sumburgh and Scatsta. This was looking at operational costs such as landing fees, hangarage charges and maintenance and, importantly, the social impact any moves to other airports would have.
Mr Wishart said the airport was important for outer isles school children, in particular from Fair Isle, where the “eight or nine” pupils comprise a plane load. Without Tingwall, pupils would have to be transported further afield, which could cause problems in bad weather. Tingwall has the advantage that pupils could be ready to go in a weather window at short notice.
He said: “If they have to go further it adds a very important aspect to moving services somewhere else.”
Any cuts in the Tingwall service would also affect island residents who rely on it for countless uses from shopping to hospital visits. Security would be another consideration: locals take things like “sye blades” on the island service, he said, which may not be allowed elsewhere.
Mr Wishart said he has an “open mind” on the subject.