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Highland Council leader 'absolutely delighted' over Wick PSO boost

By Alan Hendry

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The Wick/Aberdeen service is operated by Eastern Airways.
The Wick/Aberdeen service is operated by Eastern Airways.

Vital funding from the Scottish Government for the Wick/Aberdeen air link is to remain in place.

A continuation of the public service obligation (PSO) was announced this morning, with Highland Council leader Raymond Bremner describing it as testament to the hard work put in by everyone involved in supporting the route.

The announcement ends a period of uncertainty on whether the government agency Transport Scotland would keep subsidising flights from Wick John O'Groats Airport.

The case for continued funding was strengthened by a 25 per cent rise in passenger numbers at Wick John O'Groats Airport, outperforming other airports across the Highlands and Islands Airports Limited network.

Transport Scotland confirmed that funding for the Wick/Aberdeen PSO will continue in 2024/25.

The route was reinstated in April 2022 and is operated by Eastern Airways.

Councillor Bremner, who is also chairman of the Wick John O’Groats Airport Consultative Committee and a local member for Wick and East Caithness, said: “I am absolutely delighted with the letter from Transport Scotland informing us that the Scottish Government has committed to its continued funding of the PSO here at Wick airport.

“I know that this will have been a huge decision for them to make, and not an easy one, in light of all the financial challenges they face, but it is testament to the hard work by everyone involved in achieving this outcome.

“This work has included the detailed reports and information undertaken by council officers making a sound case for continued funding, the council’s own commitment to the funding of the PSO in the face of its own financial challenges and the discussions that have gone on between national and local government representatives, partners and stakeholders.

"I’m also delighted that the Scottish Government has endorsed the importance of our airport to our far north communities and its contribution to growing our local economy, improving communication and contributing to tackling the challenge of sustaining our communities and population growth.

“I’m looking forward to our continued work with the various groups including the Wick John O’Groats Airport Consultative Committee, Focus North and the PSO working group, our partners and stakeholders to ensure that we continue to build on making Wick one of the best-performing airports in the HIAL airport portfolio, to continued passenger growth and continued investment in the airport facilities here in Wick.

"It’s now vitally important that we maintain and increase local support for the PSO route in order that we continue to ensure its future going forward.”

In the letter confirming funding, Transport Scotland highlighted that it would like to see additional growth on the route and further development of local economic opportunities.

A formal working group is to be established to bring together Transport Scotland, Highland Council, HIAL and local stakeholders "to consider how the service and the airport can operate on a more sustainable footing in the future".

The council says it "remains committed to working with stakeholders to develop and promote the service, not just in 2024/25 but through the full four years of the PSO as originally planned. It will be making every endeavour to achieve continued growth and to enable wider economic opportunities for the region around this service."

The PSO was secured after campaigning led by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

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