The row over plans to introduce £3 a day car parking charges at Sumburgh Airport reached the Scottish parliament yesterday.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott secured a members’ debate and put the case against parking fees before MSPs, including transport minister Humza Yousaf.
Instead of the charge, which he dubbed a “tax on island life”, Mr Scott suggested that Sumburgh Airport should change its heating system to save money.
The isles MSP was speaking yesterday in Holyrood as this newspaper went to press. He argued that Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) would save thousands of pounds by converting to renewable energy.
But before he set out his money-saving idea the MSP had strong words for Hial and the SNP government which owns the airport operator. He argued that outwith Sumburgh Hial had “no idea or simply do not care where the rest of Shetland is”.
Mr Scott added: “Hial claim to have financial pressures. That would mean a thorough assessment of how to save money.
“But Hial have not published any savings options. Did the board consider any options before making this decision on 6th February?
“Hial will tax island life by £3 a day. That will be their tax, and that of the SNP, if this is allowed to happen.
“Have Hial consulted on this? No. The First Minister said that was remiss. I urge the government to turn remiss into something stronger.”
If the charges are introduced Mr Scott argued it would hit hard-working families adding £42 to the cost of a fortnight away.
“It will not hit local government staff, health board staff or others such as MSPs who can claim travel costs. That is just one public purse replenishing another. A fact the finance secretary may want to consider.
“No, this will hit real people hardest. Families, business people, voluntary sector representatives. This is why it is so wrong.”
Mr Scott’s speech comes weeks after Hial interim chairwoman Lorna Jack insisted plans to charge drivers £3 per day to park at Sumburgh Airport would go ahead. The policy is due to be introduced this summer.
Hial has argued that it was having to introduce the charge because it had been ordered to cut costs.
For the full version of this story and more on the Sumburgh car parking row, see tomorrow’s print edition of The Shetland Times.